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Last Updated: 28/11/13 4:43pm
Loch Ba: Worth his place in the line-up
Mick Channon believes Loch Ba deserves his place in what is a wide-open renewal of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday.
The multiple Group One-winning handler is more used to donning his top hat and tails at Royal Ascot than saddling runners in staying handicaps chases at the end of November, but has done well with the jumping string he inherited from Henrietta Knight 18 months ago.
Only recently he guided Somersby to a notable victory in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter, while highly regarded youngster Sgt Reckless made a big impression when downing Nicky Henderson hotpot West Wizard at Kempton earlier this week.
Loch Ba will be an outsider for this weekend's prestigious three-and-a-quarter-mile test, but has winning form at the track and will carry just 10st 1lb in the hands of Dominic Elsworth.
Channon said: "He ran well on his first run of the season (second at Bangor), came out of the race well and is in good heart at the moment.
"He's squeezed in at the bottom and has no weight on his back, so we'll see what happens on Saturday.
"It wouldn't be a Denman or a Bobs Worth sort of Hennessy, so you'd be crazy not to take your chance.
"He won at Newbury earlier in the year, so he's been round there before and knows what to expect."
Loch Ba is one of 21 horses declared for the Hennessy, with Alan King's Invictus the name on many people's lips in recent weeks.
Despite being absent from the racecourse since February of last year, the seven-year-old has been towards the head of ante-post lists for a while.
Jockey Robert Thornton accepts his mount has questions to answer, however.
Thornton told the Daily Mail: "You don't like losing horses like him to injury but he is back now and hopefully as good as he was.
"He feels like he is at home but there are question marks.
"There is the long lay-off and always a slight one whether a horse retains its ability after injury.
"He was a very good novice and I can remember when they said he was not running in the RSA Chase I was absolutely mortified.
"He was one of my best chances at the Festival at the time."
Rocky Creek, trained by multiple champion Paul Nicholls, is another who has had the Hennessy as a long-term target.
David Pipe's Our Father and the Nicky Henderson-trained Hadrian's Approach are other leading contenders, with Jim Culloty's RSA Chase winner Lord Windermere heading the Irish challenge.
Willie Mullins has not declared Vesper Bell or On His Own - the only two withdrawals - but does saddle major contender Prince De Beauchene and outsider Terminal.
Malcolm Jefferson's northern raider Cape Tribulation heads the weights on 11st 12lb, just ahead of the Venetia Williams-trained Katenko, who makes his seasonal reappearance.
Williams is also responsible for Houblon Des Obeaux.
Other candidates include Merry King, Highland Lodge, Super Duty and 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Imperial Commander.