A FANTASTIC day of racing is on the cards on Saturday as one of the jewels in the National Hunt crown, The Hennessy Gold Cup, arrives at Newbury.
In addition, the Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle is run at Newcastle and we have action at Towcester and Bangor to boot.
One of the supporting races on the Hennessy card is the Gerry Fielden Hurdle, a listed hurdle over an extended two miles. Nicky Henderson, Phillip Hobbs and champion trainer Paul Nicholls have each entered two runners, however the stand-out is ROCK ON RUBY, who, fittingly enough, has one R. Walsh booked to ride.
Ruby is riding out of his skin at the moment, including a memorable win the legend Kauto Star in the Betfair Chase last Saturday. Rock on Ruby has what appears the strongest form-line in the race, a narrow defeat to First Lieutenant in the Neptune at Cheltenham. The form is working out well, with First Lieutenant winning two Grade Three chases this term. He is the highest rated horse in the race and, with Ruby booked and the yard having hit a rich vein of form, he should have every chance.
The showpiece race at Newbury is the Hennessy, won last year by Diamond Harry after the gutsy Denman, chasing his hat-trick, nearly defied all logic and history by winning off 11-10. There is no Denman this time around but some tough chasers line up including the likes of Paddy Power winner Great Endeavour, Scottish National winner Beshabar and Punchestown Gold Cup winner Planet of Sound. That said, a strong indicator to this race is usually the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, with second season chasers having a fine record in the race.
Last year’s 1-2, Diamond Harry and Burton Port, both feel into that category and the betting is led by horses that fit the trend, with Aiteenthirtythree, Wymott and Wayward Prince all prominent in the market. Wymott was disappointing at Cheltenham, and although proved to be injured, is difficult to support first time out, particularly as the trainer said he would have liked to have got a run in him.
AITEENTHIRTYTHREE ran a terrific race behind Somersby last time, over an inadequate trip. Ruby Walsh and Paul Nicholls have had tremendous success in the race and this fellow runs in the same colours as dual champion Denman. He should be spot on for the day. WAYWARD PRINCE looks to have outstanding each way claims for Ian Williams and Dougie Costello and has an excellent record fresh. He finished ahead of Aiteenthirtythree in the RSA Chase, but still receives 2lb, and there may not be much between them. The two can fight out the finish up the Newbury climb.
The Fighting Fifth Hurdle is something that likely favourite Binocular has had terrible luck in, finishing fifth and second in the last two years and is reported to be flying at home. Therefore it pains me a little to tip up CELESTIAL HALO. He looked like he may have been a sitting duck for Grandouet when that horse fell leaving Celestial Halo to win at Wincanton. But, even if Grandouet had stood up, the result was by no means certain that day and Celestial Halo was, at the very least, putting up a strong performance against a horse who I think has Champion Hurdle credentials. Binocular doesn’t often win when fresh and could be using this race as a stepping stone towards the Christmas Hurdle so I’m reasonably happy to oppose him on this occasion.
The other significant race at Newcastle is the 3.30, a listed handicap chase. Consistent horses such as Hey Big Spender, Take the Breeze, Fred Bojangels all run, however there are two runners from unfashionable yards who merit attention. ASHFIELD’S DREAM, for the in form Evan Williams stable and CATEGORICAL for the Reveley yard both seem to be in good heart. Slight preference is for Ashfield’s Dream however, who has a good record running fresh on good ground.
Selections for Saturday November 26
2.05 Rock on Ruby
2.20 Celestial Halo
3.10 Aiteenthirtythree (Ew) Wayward Prince (Ew)
3.30 Categorical (Ew) Ashfield’s Dream (Ew)