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Friday 28 November 2014

Hennessy Gold Cup Preview

The Hennessy Gold Cup hasn’t had a habit of throwing up long-priced winners in recent years, but Madison Du Berlais (25/1) in 2008 and Triolo D’Alene (20/1) last year provide cause for optimism, as far as this column is concerned. Of course, the Hennessy Gold Cup is always competitive and particularly so this year, so we’ve had a look at a few further down the betting that could belie their generous odds.

Ballynagour (25/1) didn’t help his handicap mark when hacking up in the Byrne Group Plate, over 2 miles 4 furlongs, at the Cheltenham Festival, but has run creditably in defeat on both subsequent starts in Grade 1 company. A line through his Punchestown conqueror, Sizing Europe, gives him the beating of Rocky Creek – a top-priced 10/1 at the time of writing – so, if he arrives fit and well for his first start since April, he’s clearly no forlorn hope. He’s done most of his winning with plenty of cut in the ground and, having won a point-to-point over 3 miles earlier in his career, shouldn’t fail through lack of stamina.

A similar comment applies to Houblon Des Obeaux (33/1) who, twelve months or so ago, was beating subsequent Hennessy Gold Cup winner Triolo D’Alene (gave 3lb) by 9 lengths in the United House Gold Cup, over 3 miles, at Ascot. He could finish only sixth, beaten 21 lengths, behind the same horse in the Hennessy itself but, having won on soft and heavy going, should be much better suited by underfoot conditions this time around. He contested the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Betfred Bowl at Aintree, albeit without distinction, last season and should find this much easier. His jumping can leave something to be desired, on occasion, but that’s factored into his price and, as a tough, out-and-out stayer, he looks decent value.

At the other end of the weights, Via Sundown (33/1) has won three of his four starts over fences and won convincing on his reappearance, over 2 miles 5½ furlongs on heavy going, over hurdles at Exeter earlier this month. His previous defeat of Benvolio at Fontwell in February looks better in light of that one’s fifth to the subsequently disqualified The Young Master in the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton three weeks ago and he, too, has winning form over 3 miles on soft and heavy going. Three six-year-olds have won the Hennessy Gold Cup in the last ten years, so the statistics aren’t entirely against him and he’s a progressive type lurking on a relatively low weight.

As usual, the Hennessy Gold Cup promises to be a fascinating and informative contest. For what they’re worth, our three against the field this week are, in order of preference, Ballynagour (25/1 with Sky Bet and Sporting Bet), Houblon Des Obeaux (33/1 generally) and Via Sundown (33/1 generally). Win or lose, enjoy what is often considered the sternest test of jumping ability outside the Grand National, and good luck!