Horse Racing Preview: A Look Ahead to the Hennessy Gold Cup
November 23, 2016
While the Hennessy Gold Cup may not be the oldest horse race in the UK (it was established as recently as 1957), it is backed by an incredible amount of prestige and is now accepted as one of the richest races in the world. A Grade 3 National Hunt chase that sees best thoroughbreds compete for a winners prize of £113,900, across a challenging course stretching for three miles and two furlongs.
Part of the popular bet365 Festival held on 26th and 27th November, this year will see the 60th instalment of the Hennessy Gold Cup at the stunning Newbury Course. Along with other stellar races such as the Class 2, Bet365 Handicap Hurdle Race, this’ year’s event is sure to be attended by hundreds of fans from across the country.
Then and Now: A Brief History of the Hennessey Gold Cup
Make no mistake; however, it is the Hennessy Gold Cup that will steal the show on the first Saturday. This years’ race is likely to be more keenly contested than ever before too, with 58 runners listed and a number of talented trainers competing. This will be a far cry from the 1957 event, when Peggy Hennessey’s horse Mandarin romped home in a restricted field at Cheltenham. The race switched to Newbury in 1960, since which time it has evolved into one of the most lucrative and popular races in the world.
The challenging nature of the Newbury course (and the level of competition usually present in this race) is reflected by the fact no horse has won the meeting more than twice. Even then, only three thoroughbreds have emerged victorious on more than one occasion, including Mandarin (1957 and 1961) and the incomparable Arkle in 1964 and 1965. Denman was the next and most recent horse to achieve this feat, claiming the winners’ prize in 2007 and 2009.
Willie Robinson, who rode Mandarin to his 1961 success, is the most successful jockey with three wins to his name. Similarly, Mandarin’s trainer Fulke Walwyn has achieved astonishing success at the event, with a total of seven winners to his name between 1957 and 1981.
The Last Word: Who Are the Favourites for This Years’ Race
The weight of history and the large prize fund on offer always creates an incredible sense of anticipation around the Gold Cup, and this year will be no exception. In fact, the 60th instalment of the race may arguably one of the most keenly-contested ever, making it hard to determine a clear, Hennessy Gold Cup favourite at this stage.
Interestingly, 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree is set to compete this time around, after being ruled out of last year’s Hennessy showpiece with an injury. He was widely fancied to win before being withdrawn from the list of entries, and at 16/1 he offers excellent value thanks to his experience and pedigree.
In terms of the current favourite, however, that honour goes to the six year-old Native River (6/1). Colin Tizzard, he has performed consistently this season and ended his campaign with a comfortable, run-away success in the G1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree. Fan should also look out for last years’ winner Smad Place (14/1), who will be looking to defy added weight of 11 pounds to join the ranks of Mandarin and Arkle as a two time, Hennessey Gold Cup winner.
Whatever happens, fans can be assured of an entertaining and tight race that will go to the wire.