Start The Car
By Nic Doggett. Last Updated: 22/11/12 11:54am
Planet Of Sound (L) and Carruthers (near side) last year
Nic Doggett previews the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on December 1 and has three big-priced selections for the race.
Alan Hansen is oft reminded of his (in)famous quote; "You'll never win anything with kids" and it's not hard to feel a bit sorry for him. Everyone makes mistakes, but to be punished with a seat next to Mark Lawrenson for a decade is taking it too far.
He was talking about Manchester United in 1995 but I'm going to apply the same logic to the Hennessy Gold Cup and hope that it doesn't turn out as disastrously as Hansen's prediction.
Diamond Harry and Carruthers are both nine years old, whilst Planet Of Sound is a year older, and all three look overpriced for the Newbury showpiece, with the latest forfeit stage leaving 35 possible runners for the race.
Firstly let's deal with DIAMOND HARRY.
Since winning this race in 2010, Nick Williams' flag-bearer has done a woeful job, stumbling and tripping with the stable's colours like the Chuckle Brothers on an ice rink. Carrying a pane of glass. Blindfolded.
He has failed to complete on his last three starts, however as a result the handicapper now has him on a mark of 143, some 13lbs lower than two years ago.
It is easy to argue that the horse looks to have completely gone, and a poor run here could easily signal an early(ish) retirement, but I'm keen to give him the benefit of the doubt.
His Newbury record is exceptional, reading 1-1-1-3-1-1, and it's also worth remembering that he was pulled-up on his previous run before taking this race two years ago.
He clearly wasn't fit on his reappearance at Wincanton in the Badger Ales Trophy, and he also didn't seem to appreciate being held up away from the action, with Noel Fehily trying to keep him wide away from the attentions of the errant-jumping Triangular.
But he's a different horse at Newbury and with that effort likely to have blown away any cobwebs, the chance to carry a light weight in a big handicap could be exactly what he needs; at 33/1 he looks worth giving one more chance to.
Another 33/1 shot is CARRUTHERS, another former winner of the race.
His moment in the sun came just 12 months ago, yet after a series of poor runs, he too is another very well-handicapped horse; he's just 1lb higher than that glorious win.
Mark Bradstock's stable star is another who comes alive at this Berkshire venue, and once again it's easy to point to his course record which stands at 1-6-1. If we compare that to his Cheltenham record (where three of his last runs have come), which reads 11-4-2-4-9-3-10-LFT (left at start) -11, then his profile is even more attractive.
His win came with a tongue-tie on, so connections should reach for that apparatus once again, and the hurly-burly, strong pace and hustle and bustle of this contest (cliché hat-trick) suits him down to the ground.
A slightly shorter price, but another horse who has history in this race, is Philip Hobbs' 25/1 chance PLANET OF SOUND.
The son of Kayf Tara never used to strike me as a strong stayer but there's no denying that it's where he seems most at home these days, striking out his Grand National attempt which is a different kettle of fish completely.
Second in this race last year off a mark of 158, he should come on for his Charlie Hall Chase fifth where he jumped neatly but ran out of steam before the turn for home. He wasn't beaten up by regular jockey Richard Johnson and the margin of defeat was exaggerated as a result.
Once again a liking for Newbury is very much in his favour (career record here is 2-1-1-1-2) and it's interesting to note that since State Of Play's success in 2006, every winner of the Hennessy had previously won at the track.
It's a recurring theme but Hobbs' charge is undeniably well-handicapped, being 6lbs lower than last season's run, and another big run looks on the cards with this race an obvious long-term target.
Obviously there are some horses at the head of the betting that have a much sexier profile.
The Package impressed at Wincanton in the Badger Ales but his trainer David Pipe has used that race as a stepping-stone to Cheltenham's big handicap next month for the horse in the past and he might just be running here because of that win, rather than as part of an original plan.
Nicky Henderson's Bobs Worth deservedly heads the betting but he's short enough for this reappearance, with just four runs over fences under his belt, and his comeback last season not overly impressive. I'd rather take a punt on him improving over the year and being a legitimate Cheltenham Gold Cup contender (currently priced at 8/1), a course where he is unbeaten in four starts.
His stablemate Burton Port cannot be ignored despite his trainer's words of caution (slow to come to hand this year), whilst Hold On Julio looks well-handicapped but his jumping has deteriorated over the last year and if he fences like he did at Cheltenham last time then he'll be up against it.
Paul Nicholls, who has a fine record in the race, has a trio of entries but you don't have to be Poirot (it is Movember after all) to work out that Michel Le Bon is a big threat.
He was well-held in this race last season but was running after a two year absence and he's much more interesting judged by his second to The Package last time out. He's won at Newbury before and looks the best of those horses priced at 10/1 or less.
However I'm happy to stick with three horses at bigger odds, and cross my fingers that the return to Newbury sparks all three to run the big race that they are all capable of.
1 pt wins on Planet Of Sound at 25/1, Carruthers at 33/1 and Diamond Harry at 33/1