The late omission of Gold Cup winner Coneygree from this year’s Hennessy Gold Cup leaves the Newbury feature even more competitive in a way.
While it would have been a monster performance of Denman proportions to lumber top-weight to victory at the Berkshire track, many would have fancied Mark Bradstock’s charge to do just that.
But with the eight-year-old out, Saphir Du Rheu takes his position at the top of the weight and the top of the market, as 3/1 favourite.
Owner Andy Stewart has spoken about how the weights going up will only help out his charge’s rivals, and with the grey’s jumping coming under scrutiny at various points last term, it could well be worth taking him on.
The 2013 Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth is well fancied to return to former glories after a win over hurdles at Aintree a fortnight ago, but we are looking at a trio at slightly bigger prices to go to battle with.
When you take into account the fact that Willie Mullins’ charge finished in front of two horses that won Grade 1 chases last season and six other Graded winners and throw in the fact that he’ll be receiving seven pounds from the jolly, he looks an attractive price.
His final start saw him beat an admittedly below par RSA Chase winner Don Poli in excellent fashion on his first outing at further than three miles, hinting that more is to come.
The six-year-old had enough pace to win a Grade 1 over two-and-a-half miles last term, but Mullins has said that he “could be our Grand National horse”, suggesting connections have no worries about his stamina. If he lines up, he is a serious player.
Philip Hobbs’ horse was a well fancied 6/1 chance for this race last year, and for much of the race ran and jumped like a horse set to be there at the finish.
Ultimately though, he folded tamely and it came to light that burst blood vessels were the cause of his capitulation.
He comes into this race off a nine pound lower mark this time round, and while he has a seven length beating by Smad Place to reverse, is seven pounds better off with the grey.
His trainer has done well in chases at the venue in the last three years, operating a strike-rate of 31 per cent, so it could be worth chancing that he puts right last year’s wrongs.
This one may take a bit more convincing, but on his best form David Bridgwater’s stable star might just be over-priced.
The 10-year-old drops into handicap company for the first time since winning the Murphy Group Chase by 17 lenghts on Cheltenham Trials Day in 2012 off a mark of 145.
He’s rated nine pounds higher these days, but having been placed in two Cheltenham Gold Cups and finished second in the Denman Chase at Newbury since, he’s probably come on since then.
His owner has said that he has summered well and if delivering what we know he is capable of, he can certainly trouble the places.
Much will be reliant on how much he has got over a heavy fall at Punchestown in April, but this popular gelding might be overlooked in the betting.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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