Carruthers can deny Denman Gold treble
I was having a few jars in the local last week when the mighty Arkle flashed across the TV screen, immediately prompting the local barflies to ignite the 'greatest chaser of all time' debate.
I kept out of the discussion as I wasn't even born when Tom Dreaper's hero last raced in 1966, but having read about his exploits, I think it's safe to say that he was truly the best.
I had to laugh when the oldest man in the pub put a young whippersnapper in his place when it was suggested that Kauto Star or Denman would give Arkle a run for his money -- such blasphemy! It was a valuable lesson for the young lad in keeping one's own council while sipping pints of plain with the older patrons of a working-man's bar.
As great as Arkle was, however, one thing he couldn't do was win three Hennessy Gold Cups and it's my gut feeling that Denman won't be able to do so either when he attempts the hat-trick this afternoon (3.05 Newbury).
It's unfair to compare horses from different eras, but as both have equalled Mandarin's record by winning the Hennessy twice, the comparisons are somewhat inevitable. In Arkle's last attempt, he was trying to give away 35lbs, so his half-length defeat to Stalbridge Colonist is certainly no blot on the copybook.
The weights system is a little different these days but due to Denman's superiority, he's put half the field 'out of the handicap' today and some treble figure prices on the exchanges for one or two rivals shows just how far behind they are in terms of class.
All that said, it's hard to ignore the fact that Denman hasn't won since taking this contest last year and his latest run in the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup was pretty awful to be honest.
He's far from finished yet -- but it's worth remembering that the last 10-year-old to win this race was in 1981 (Diamond Edge), so he's up against it if historical trends are anything to go by. It would be fantastic for racing if he won and I'm sure the crowd would raise the roof, but odds of 7/2 are simply too low.
Instead, I'm taking an each-way chance on the Mark Bradstock-trained Carruthers, which despite carrying the minimum weight of 10st, is actually only 1lb wrong under these conditions. Normally, I like to put up a separate 'each-way outsider' in this column, but with Carruthers trading around 16/1, I won't be looking elsewhere for my big-priced bet today. He had a tough race at Ascot last time in the Listed United House Gold Cup Handicap and got knocked around quite a bit, but at seven years of age, he's young enough to take it and connections were pleased with his workout on Wednesday.
If Denman fluffs his lines, this race will be blown wide open so it makes sense to side with an improving young horse that is just about right at the weights.
12.25 Newbury: Binocular
2.30 Newbury: Big Buck's
3.05 Newbury: Carruthers (e/w)