THE weather has played havoc with British racing this week and tomorrow’s Hennessy Gold Cup (3.10pm) will be a thorough test where only the strongest of stayers need apply.
Last season’s novice chasers are a special bunch and RSA Chase winner Bobs Worth could be the best of them. Nicky Henderson has won this race just once but it was with another RSA winner, Trabolgan. Bobs Worth has shown a clear preference for going left-handed and he looks a serious Cheltenham Gold Cup contender for March.
That said, this will be the softest ground he has encountered and his trainer seriously considered pulling him out of the race. If he handles the conditions he will go close, but I’m not willing to take the risk at 7/2 with Coral.
Paul Nicholls has plundered nearly every big Saturday race in the past month and Tidal Bay has been well supported. He shoulders top weight, but that proved no barrier to Denman (twice) or Trabolgan in the last seven years.
But Tidal Bay was 16/1 last week and is now as short as 7/1, so on value grounds I’m willing to leave him alone.
The two I’m interested in both contested the four-mile National Hunt Chase at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, the winner TEAFORTHREE and the fifth, ALFIE SPINNER.
AP McCoy is aboard the Rebecca Curtis-trained runner who will relish the conditions and step up in trip. His main target this season has always been the Welsh National but Curtis has stated how well he is at home. The 14/1 available with Coral is worth taking.
Alfie Spinner has won just three of 20 career starts but run some excellent races in defeat. The key to this seven-year-old is soft ground and a severe test of stamina, so tomorrow’s conditions should suit perfectly. He ran well at Ascot this month and Mark Quinlan’s claim means he will carry just 9st 11lb. Nick Williams won this race with Diamond Harry two years ago and his stablemate is a solid each-way proposition at 14/1 with Coral.
Earlier on the card, CALL ME A STAR is a mare Alan King’s red-hot yard holds in the highest regard and should be hard to beat in the 12.50pm.
She was among the best of her sex in bumpers and got off to a winning start over hurdles at Uttoxeter. Listed company requires more improvement but, having proved she can handle soft conditions, the daughter of Midnight Legend is a confident selection.
Before all that, the best bet today is PUFFIN BILLY in the last (3.45pm). Oliver Sherwood’s charge was hugely impressive in both his bumper triumphs and looks destined for bigger things.
You can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my views.
PUFFIN BILLY 3.45pm Newbury (today)
CALL ME A STAR 12.50pm Newbury (tomorrow)
TEAFORTHREE e/w 3.10pm Newbury (tomorrow)
ALFIE SPINNER e/w 3.10pm Newbury (tomorrow)