Denman heads Hennessy hopes
Published 17/11/2010 | 13:27
Denman has been left at the head of the weights and is one of 34 remaining entries for the Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday week.
After Paul Nicholls decided to take Kauto Star out of the race, the Paul Barber-owned 10-year-old will have to carry 11st 12lb if he is to create history by becoming the first horse to win the handicap for a third time.
Having hauled around top weight 12 months ago, this time he has to do it off an 8lb higher mark.
Stablemates Neptune Collonges, Taranis and What A Friend, due to run at Haydock this week, are among only a handful of others who will be running off their correct marks.
China Rock, who ran so well against Kauto Star at Down Royal, former winner Madison Du Berlais, Silver By Nature and Barbers Shop are the others.
Nicholls also has The Tother One, Take The Breeze and Niche Market to choose from.
The likes of Weird Al, Diamond Harry, Burton Port, Big Fella Thanks and Pandorama are all due to run from just out of the handicap.
Willie Mullins will not be represented as he has taken out Arbor Supreme, Quiscover Fontaine and The Midnight Club.
Burton Port could be Nicky Henderson's only runner unless Denman is a surprise defector.
Henderson still has four entries standing their ground, but last season's RSA Chase runner-up and subsequent Mildmay Novices' Chase winner is the only one he is prepared to commit at the moment.
"He is the intended one," said the trainer.
"He's quite a stuffy horse, although he was good first time out last year.
"It was always going to be a struggle to get a run into him before the Hennessy and he is going to have a spin after racing at Warwick."
Burton Port ran seven times last term, winning five and finishing second in the others, but went to the Cheltenham Festival as the stable's apparent third-best for the RSA behind Long Run and Punchestowns.
He finished ahead of them both.
"He was a bit of a revelation," Henderson continued.
"Even in the RSA it was thought he was maybe the third string but he came out of the season having done nothing wrong.
"He was really good one day at Southwell and he won three Graded races.
"I suppose he's not the most flashy of horses - he's not flashy at home - but he has been underestimated."
Of the remaining trio, he said: "I got the impression in last year's race, and in the King George, that Barbers Shop did not quite get home, but where else do you go with him?
"I thought the Charlie Hall at Wetherby would suit him but he was gone a long way out there and came back stiff. We've sorted a few things out with him.
"I've got Wogan and a new horse to us, Horner Woods, in there, too, but they are a long way down in the weights.
"But you never know, and if anything were to happen to Denman it would all change and you would look a bit silly if you weren't still in there."
Glencove Marina is engaged, but trainer Eoin Griffin is instead eyeing the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown.
"We'll be giving the Hennessy a skip and he'll be going for the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown on December 5," said the County Kilkenny trainer.
"All's been well with him since he won at Thurles. He's in good order. We'll keep him to that kind of trip - two and a half miles - for the time being.
"The Durkan looks a better option for him at this stage."
Newbury clerk of the course Richard Osgood reports the ground at the Berkshire track to be currently good to soft.