CHAMPION jockey Richard Johnson is yet to win a Hennessy Gold Cup (3.10pm), but he holds a great chance on Saturday with 11/2 market leader Native River.
Speaking on his Betway blog, Johnson praised the seven-year-old’s “staying ability” and describes him as “a very good jumper”.
Those are the fundamental traits you need to win a Hennessy and it’s easy to see why the bookies make him the favourite for tomorrow’s big race.
His stamina was there for all to see when a close second in the four-miler at Cheltenham, while a sweet round of jumping from the front earnt Colin Tizzard’s charge his first and only Grade One in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree.
He is expected to come on a lot for his seasonal pipe-opener in the West Yorkshire Hurdle and it will take a good one to deny him. My only problem is the price.
If you’re convinced he is the winner, then back him in running as he tends to look a little one-paced in the closing stages but always stays all the way to the line.
At the current odds, there are a duo of diamond each-way bets. RSA Chase victor BLAKLION is the first of those at 8/1. Saturday’s 3m 2f contest will be raced on fairly testing ground, and you need a horse that likes a scrap.
The guts he showed when winning the Towton Novices’ Chase in desperate conditions at Wetherby, mixed with class he displayed to score at the Festival, is a deadly combination.
At 10/1 with Betway comes last year’s Hennessy winner SMAD PLACE. The bold-jumping grey did it by 12 lengths in 2015, and despite a rise in the weights is the most proven top-class chaser in the race.
He was given quotes ranging between 8/1 and 16/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup after landing the trial in January, and he can now be backed in the same price bracket for this race.
In my eyes that’s an absolute steal. Nicky Henderson has won the Listed Gerry Fielden Hurdle (2.40pm) four times in the last decade and he can land it again with four-year-old filly OMESSA HAS.
It’s impossible to fancy her on all known form, as she has only won one of her eight trips to Auteuil and was well beaten on her stable debut at Cheltenham in April.
However, she has reportedly strengthened up over the summer and I fancy her to get the better of Ozzie The Oscar, Zubayr and Who Dares Wins.
My final selection at Newbury tomorrow is ULTRAGOLD in the closing two mile handicap chase (3.45pm).
Tizzard’s eight-year-old ran a solid race in the Haldon Gold Cup last time, stepping up on his reappearance at Cheltenham.
The slight drop back in trip will suit, while this course and distance winner won’t mind the ground and could have a fitness edge on some of his rivals.
There is some decent action at Newcastle and I’m going to focus on the Rehearsal Chase (3.30pm) rather than the Fighting Fifth.
Newcastle have boosted the prize money for this Listed contest and they’ve been rewarded with a strong field. I can’t get away from Brian Ellison’s DEFINITLY RED, who looks to have been laid out for the race.
He was second to my Hennessy fancy Blaklion at Wetherby last February and was an impressive winner over hurdles at Carlisle on his reappearance.
Man of the moment Brian Hughes takes the ride and Definitly Red is a strong fancy at XX with Betway.
Omessa Has 2.40pm Newbury
Blaklion e/w 3.10pm Newbury
Smad Place e/w 3.10pm Newbury
Definitly Red e/w 3.30pm Newcastle
Ultragold e/w 3.45pm Newbury