Unspoiled by recent weather, we could enjoy another great weekend of NH racing, the highlight being the Hennessey Gold Cup Grade 3 handicap Chase over 3 miles, 2 1/2 Furlongs. The race was run at a fair pace on the good to soft ground with some bold if not spectacular jumping from the front running pair Fruity O’ Rooney and First Lieutenant. It wasn’t to be for the two previous winners of the race Carruthers and Diamond Harry, Carruthers never got into the race after being hampered at the 3rd and came in last of the 13 that finished. Diamond Harry fell at the 12th after losing his position due to some poor jumping. The hard luck story of the race was possibly Harry The Viking who lost any chance he might have had when being badly hampered twice at the 3rd and 5th fence. Nothing much to take out of the race regarding Cheltenham, besides the slick workman like performance of the winner Bobs Worth, and a good exhibition of Jumping from First Lieutenant who would have preferred better ground and did well to finish 3rd.
It was also a great feat of training from Paul Nicholls to get another fantastic run from the 11 year old Tidal Bay who came from well back with a late surging run to claim 2nd place, 3 1/4 lengths behind the winner. No disrespect intended to Tidal Bay’s former trainer Howard Johnson, but it makes you wonder what heights the horse could have attained had he been with Paul in his prime. A great performance from Bobsworth to win off a mark of 160, (well the bookies seem to think so) as he is now firm favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Was it Gold Cup winning form? I’m not too sure. You cannot argue with the fact that the horse has never been beaten at Cheltenham in four visits to the course, including two grade 1 races at the festival, namely the Albert Bartlett hurdle in 2011 and the RSA chase last March.
In fact the more that I look at Bobs worth’s credentials the harder it is not to fancy him for the big one. On the negative side RSA winners have not got a great record in the Gold Cup, with only seven horses winning both races since 1959, and was it a great enough performance to beat the old guy Tidal Bay by just over 3 lengths and receiving 6 pounds? It looks as though next years Gold Cup will be fought out by new kids on the block, and from what I have seen up to now, my vote would be with Silviniaco Conti. Plenty of thrills and spills to come before March though, lets just hope that the weather is kind and allows the racing to flow throughout the winter months.
– Bruce Roger