Jumps Season - At The Races

Hennessy Gold Cup

    Newbury, Saturday 26th November 2016.
  • Stats Guides

Last Year's Winner: Smad Place

Smad Place
Jockey:
Wayne Hutchinson
Trainer:
A King
Age:
8
Weight:
11st 4lb
Starting Price:
7/1
Season Form Figures:
1
Previous Best:
3rd - Ladbrokes World Hurdle (Grade 1), Cheltenham Festival (Mar 2013)

The Hennessy has very much been a race for the leading fancies with 25 of the last 32 winners starting in the first four in the betting so it has not been wise to have looked too far beyond the obvious.

This might be the last time that the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup is so named and this always eagerly-anticipated spectacle is widely regarded as the second most prestigious handicap chase after the Grand National in most punters’ eyes (Many Clouds won both races two seasons ago), and has been a strong race for followers of patterns down the years.

A handicap in which horses carrying no more than 11st dominated between 1985 and 2004 with only one winner (Suny Bay) carrying more than 11st, the Hennessy has become far more of a class-act’s race recently and the last 11 winners were officially rated 145+, eight of which carried a minimum of 11st 4lb.

To further underline this notable u-turn, the top weight or joint top weight has placed at worst seven times in the last ten years (Denman twice defied top weight) and the top weight in 2014, Houblon Des Obeaux, finished second at 50/1. Another class stat to bear in mind is that 13 of last 16 winners had registered a victory over fences at pattern or listed level (including the last nine), five of which had won a Grade 1 race over hurdles.

Two of the last four runnings went on to feature that season’s Gold Cup winner (Bobs Worth 1st and Lord Windermere 8th) and both of those subsequent Gold Cup winners had won the previous season’s RSA Chase. In fact, 11 of the last 17 winners were second-season chasers so the previous spring’s RSA Chase is usually a very good place to start.

The 2010 Hennessy 1-2, Diamond Harry and Burton Port, also both contested the RSA Chase earlier in their year and the 2005 and 2007 RSA Chase winners, Trabolgan and Denman, both added the Hennessy Gold Cup to their C.V. later in the year as did the aforementioned Bobs Worth. The 2008 and 2009 Hennessy runners-up also contested the RSA Chase the previous spring. Blaklion took last spring’s RSA.

Another novice chase to note from the previous season is the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day as three of the last 11 Hennessy winners contested that prize 11 months earlier.

The top weight or joint top weight has placed at worst seven times in the last ten years.

During the late 1980s through to 2001 it was the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at the Grand National Meeting that was the second-best guide behind the RSA Chase with five winners but it had not featured the winner for a decade until Many Clouds put that right two years ago. Last April’s winner, Native River, is being aimed at the Hennessy and he also won the staying Grade 2 novices’ chase at last season’s Hennessy Meeting so he looks to have the right attributes.

The Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton was as good trial when Coome Hill and Teeton Mill both won that prize before their Hennessy victories (and Kings Road was only beaten a short-head before he took top honours at Newbury) but it has not been a factor since 2000.

Youth usually carries the day in the Hennessy (though, unusually, the first four home last year were aged 8, 8, 10 and 9) and seven of the first eight home in 2014 were aged no older than seven. The previous year the first 12 horses home were aged six or seven but it should be highlighted that only four of the 21 runners were older in that particular renewal.

In common with many of the big early-season handicaps, it pays to gloss over the claims of older horses that are simply not open to the same amount of improvement as second and third-season chasers. Despite being a third-season chaser, Triolo D’Alene was still only six when he won the 2014 Hennessy and although Carruthers was a fourth-season chaser when he won in 2011, he was still only an eight-year-old.

Only the remarkable Diamond Edge way back in 1981, trained by Fulke Walwyn, the master of preparing a horse for this race (his seven victories remains a record) has proved successful for horses aged in double figures since Rondetto in 1967.

Nicky Henderson has some way to go to catch Walwyn but he has very much been the trainer to follow in the Hennessy of late winning three of the last 11 renewals. Paul Nicholls has also won the Hennessy three times and has had seven others place to boot but his favourite last year, Saphir Du Rheu, could finish only fifth. David Pipe is also worth noting having trained a winner and four placed horses from his 11 runners.

At a glance summary

Positives
Second-season chasers have a strong record
The first four in the betting
Ran in last season’s RSA Chase
A Grade 1 winner over hurdles
Trained by Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson or David Pipe
Respect contenders that contested last season’s Kauto Star Novices’ Chase or Mildmay Novices' Chase
Negatives
Aged 10+
Officially rated under 145
Yet to win at Pattern or Listed level over fences

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