Bobs aiming to prove his Worth for Henderson
IN a Festival week rendered unforgettable by the mesmeric powers of Sprinter Sacre, his understated stablemate Bobs Worth gets his chance in the limelight in today's Cheltenham Gold Cup. He is set to become the race's 29th winning favourite.
Nicky Henderson can cap a glorious four days with victory in the showpiece of the meeting, although this will be as tough an assignment as Bobs Worth has ever faced in his 11-start career.
His relative inexperience is outweighed by his love of Prestbury Park's unique steeplechase course, where he is unbeaten in four starts.
Henderson has found himself torn between two camps domestically in the run up to this year's Gold Cup. Apart from Bobs Worth, which he describes as a baby and relatively unexposed, he also saddles Long Run, the consistent, but unflamboyant winner of the 2011 Gold Cup.
It is a strong hand for any trainer, but Henderson has been very careful not to openly take sides in all the pre-Festival discussions, giving the impression he would be delighted for either to take the honours, and who can blame him?
For me, though, Bobs Worth represents the rising generation and the future. Two years ago, Long Run was the young buck responsible for seeing off Kauto Star and Denman, but his forceful rise to the top simply has since stuttered and paused.
It has become a trend for the leading chasers to be seen on the racecourse less often. A decade ago, Best Mate was restricted to only three outings a season, but Henrietta Knight, his trainer, explained this was not a ploy to protect her horse from would-be challengers, more a matter of dealing with a tender constitution.
At the end of their racing careers, both Kauto Star and Denman had curtailed seasons, and although Bobs Worth comes to his first Gold Cup with only one outing all season under the belt, it is not by design.
Originally, Henderson had wanted to run him in the Argento Chase in late January, but the gelding scoped badly and missed the race. In his yard at home, Bobs Worth is the complete opposite to Sprinter Sacre, the showman, which loves the attention. "You wouldn't know Bobs Worth was there," Henderson reported. "But, he's won four times at Cheltenham and that must be in his favour."
Paul Nicholls has been relatively quiet this week, but Silviniaco Conti gives him a chance of equalling Tom Dreaper's record of training five Gold Cup winners. The seven-year-old was impressive in winning at Haydock Park in November and workmanlike at Newbury last month. I consider him the danger.
But for me, the winner will be Bobs Worth, the unpretentious star who deserves his place in the limelight. (© Daily Telegraph, London)