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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday's Irish Independent article

IT'S always a challenge to try and pick the winner of a big field handicap like the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury (3.10) but in fairness to punters, they've had a good stab at it recently and only two winners have gone off above 10/1 in the latest ten renewals. To help narrow down the field, I find it's best to focus on horses that are in good form so I usually cross a line through any runner that didn't finish in the top three last time out. In fact, nine of the last ten winners of this race had a top-three finish in their latest completed start, and using this approach to narrow down the field helped me tip last year's winner Carruthers for the column at 10/1. This time around though, the  nine-year-old is ruled out as he could only finish meekly last time out at Cheltenham (11th of 16 runners) and his price of 25/1 is a fair reflection of his chances today. I'm also not too keen on backing older horse in this race with Mandarin (1961), Rondetto (1967) and Diamond Edge (1981) being the only horses to win aged ten or older since the race began in 1957. Indeed since 1997, 33 horses aged ten or older have raced and only three have been placed. On that basis then,  Roberto Goldback, Lion Na Bearnai  and Paul Nicholls' Tidal Bay are all scratched from the list; although I do admit that ignoring horses from Ditcheat is an exercise fraught with danger, no matter what the stats may tell us. Tidal Bay carries topweight and while he did win the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown carrying 11st 12lbs, I think he might struggle today against much stronger opposition.  I hope my readers will forgive me for being a little unoriginal today then; but if we are looking for a horse aged under ten that is reasonably strong in the market and had a top three finish last time out, then the Nicky Henderson trained Bobs Worth ticks all the right boxes. He's short enough at 7/2 but he looks to me to be an ideal Cheltenham Gold Cup candidate and this is the perfect starting point for that campaign. He was unbeaten over timber as a novice and while it took him a couple of chases to find his stride, he was mighty impressive at Cheltenham last time when winning the RSA Chase. He got into a good rhythm, he jumped well and he stayed on nicely; all of which are the ingredients that make up a good Gold Cup horse. He has a preference for going left-handed so he'll enjoy coming back to Newbury and while heavy ground would be a concern, he'll stay the distance no problem. Earlier on the same card, it will be good to see Big Buck's back in action in the Long Distance Hurdle (2.00) as he attempts to win his 18th race on the trot. At 1/7, there's not much point in having a bet and he's frightened away all but three other runners; Fox Appeal , Five Dream and Reve de Sivola. He's some 26lbs clear of Fox Appeal on ratings and barring some sort of catastrophe, a win is merely a formality. All going well, we'll see the nine-year-old back in action for the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot later this month. 
THE David Pipe trained Consigliere won the Sportingbet Handicap Chase at Newbury in 2009 and at 20/1, the nine-year-old is overpriced to do so again this afternoon (3.45). He usually needs a run or two each season before he's back in shape so his disappointing performance at the Cheltenham Open meeting last time can be discounted.  With his jockey Tom Bellamy claiming 7lbs, he might be capable of springing a surprise. 
Soccer: Everton have already registered draws against Liverpool and Arsenal this season and have beaten Manchester United - so Manchester City might not have it all their own way against the Toffees at the Etihad this afternoon. The Citizens are as short as 1/2 in places but this could be closer than the market suggests and the 4/5 about both teams scoring looks the better value option.
Horseracing: Just four horses go to post for the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle (2.20) with Supreme Novice Hurdle winner Cinders And Ashes most likely to enjoy the testing conditions. He hasn't lost a race since getting off the mark in a maiden hurdle at Aintree last year and his manner of victory at Cheltenham suggests there is plenty of improving to come from the five-year-old.
2.20 Newcastle: Cinders And Ashes
3.10 Newbury: Bobs Worth
3.40 Newbury: Consigliere (e/w)
3.10 Fairyhouse: Tarquinius (Sunday)

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