Coneygree not running in tomorrow’s Hennessy Gold Cup is undoubtedly a blow to the race, and although it may be a benefit for those who will now line up off their ‘proper’ mark, without last season’s Gold Cup winner, the favourite Saphir Du Rheu gets pushed to the head of the weights on 11-12.
It’s ambiguous as to whether it will affect the grey too much, with his owner Andy Stewart firmly in the camp that it is a disadvantage, while Paul Nicholls’ has said that it shouldn’t make too much difference.
He’s obviously improved over the summer, and has could have more to come after having just five runs over fences.
The way he capped off last season with the 15 lengths success in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices Chase at Aintree and his decisive win in a small field at Carlisle last time suggests he definitely has the potential to compete in the best races around this season.
There are a few small holes to be poked in the favourite however.
Firstly, he’s fallen or unseated twice, which would be a concern in a big-field event like this.
Secondly, Ruby Walsh has said it would take a Denman-esque performance to win this race with 11-12 on his back, and I don’t think we can even mention Saphir Du Rheu in the same breath as Denman, at the moment at least.
I can see why he is favourite, but at the price of 4/1, he looks too short and is worth opposing.
And it is with a horse that has been there and done it that I am pinning my colours to at Newbury, and that is Bobs Worth.
With Nicky Henderson’s charge is as big as 6/1, I think he’s very backable proposition.
Yes, it was just a hurdle race that he won last time out at Aintree, but his current mark of 153 is a whopping 27lbs lower than the peak rating achieved when winning the Gold Cup in 2013.
Beef or Salmon won this race as a seven-year-old and then came back and won it again at 10, and Bobs Worth, a better horse than him, can do it too.
I know we have to be so cautious with letting our hearts ruling our heads, but he comes into this on an unbelievably low mark, and I think we could see the rise of the phoenix in Berkshire.
There will be 17 runners lining up at 3pm on Saturday, and while Saphir Du Rheu would worry me in that sense, Bobs Worth is proven in the rough and tumble of the contest.
Whether anywhere near as good as he once was I don’t know and it’s a risky bet, banking that he is back to somewhere near his best, but it’s one I am taking.
If you wanted to side with an up-and-coming sort at a slightly bigger price, I wouldn’t be one to put anyone off siding with If In Doubt at 9/1.
He could be one to keep an eye on. We last saw him pulling up in the Irish Grand National after winning a Listed chase at Doncaster, in a solid campaign.
Although he unseated his rider on seasonal reappearance last term, he has previously won first time out, so race fitness comes with minimal worry.
His mark of 151 fits into a similar bracket of previous winners of the race like Triolo D’Alene, Carruthers and State of Play, so it is doable.
Bobs Worth is the one for me, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Philip Hobb’s charge run well too.
Away from Newbury there’s Grade 1 action at Newcastle with the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
Wicklow Brave is the classiest act in the field, he ran so well in the Morgiana Hurdle behind Nichols Canyon and Faugheen.
Regardless of how disappointing Faugheen was, he got within a length and three quarters of Nichols Canyon, a horse I think could be a real Champion Hurdle threat this term.
Wicklow Brave has been campaigned all year, finishing third in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot on Champions Day, as well as in Irish St Leger.
He’s a horse you’d love to own as he’d take you everywhere.
I don’t think Irving is a backable price at 3/1 despite the fact he won the Elite Hurdle and the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle last week.
He’s not the slickest of jumpers but seems to get away with it because of his speed, but Wicklow Brave has a big engine and jumps well.
The horse he beat last time out Top Notch could actually be the value in the race.
He’s only four and you’d be sure there is more to come from him after that run at Haydock.
If the summer campaign were to catch up with Wicklow Brave and he ran slightly below par, there is a possibility that Nicky Henderson’s horse can improve on previous showings and take this race.
It could be quite a close match at Newcastle but he looks the bet for me, making this a day to be on Nicky Henderson’s string in the two big races.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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