IT'S always a challenge to try and pick the winner of a big field handicap like the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury (3.10), but in fairness to punters, they've had a good stab at it recently and only two winners have gone off above 10/1 in the latest 10 renewals.
To help narrow down the field, I find it's best to focus on horses that are in good form, so I usually cross a line through any runner that didn't finish in the top three last time out. In fact, nine of the last 10 winners of this race had a top-three finish in their latest completed start and this helped me tip last year's winner Carruthers at 10/1.
This time around, though, the nine-year-old is ruled out as he could only finish meekly last time at Cheltenham (11th of 16) and 25/1 is a fair reflection of his chances. I'm also not too keen on backing older horses in this race with Mandarin (1961), Rondetto (1967) and Diamond Edge (1981) the only horses to win aged 10 or older since the race began in 1957.
Indeed, since 1997, 33 horses aged 10 or older have raced and only three have been placed. On that basis then, Roberto Goldback, Lion Na Bearnai and Paul Nicholls' Tidal Bay are all scratched – although I do admit that ignoring horses from Ditcheat is an exercise fraught with danger, no matter what the stats may tell us.
Tidal Bay carries topweight and while he did win the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown carrying 11st 12lbs, I think he might struggle today against much stronger opposition.
I hope my readers will forgive me for being a little unoriginal today then, but if we are looking for a horse aged under 10 that is reasonably strong in the market and had a top-three finish last time out, then the Nicky Henderson-trained Bobs Worth ticks all the right boxes.
He's short enough at 7/2, but he looks to me to be an ideal Cheltenham Gold Cup candidate and this is the perfect starting point for that campaign. He was unbeaten over timber as a novice and was impressive at Cheltenham last time when winning the RSA Chase.
He has a preference for going left-handed, so he'll enjoy coming back to Newbury and while heavy ground would be a concern, he'll stay the distance no problem.
Earlier on the same card, it will be good to see Big Buck's back in action in the Long Distance Hurdle (2.0) as he attempts to win his 18th race on the trot. At 1/7, there's not much point in having a bet and he's frightened away all but three other runners; Fox Appeal, Five Dream and Reve de Sivola. He's 26lbs clear of Fox Appeal on ratings and, barring some sort of catastrophe, a win is a formality. All going well, we'll see the nine-year-old back in action for the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot later this month.
THE David Pipe-trained Consigliere won the Sportingbet Handicap Chase at Newbury in 2009 and, at 20/1, the nine-year-old is overpriced to do so again today (3.40). With his jockey Tom Bellamy claiming 7lbs, he might be capable of springing a surprise.
2.20 Newcastle: Cinders And Ashes
3.10 Newbury: Bobs Worth
3.40 Newbury: Consigliere (e/w)
3.10 Fairyhouse: Tarquinius (tomorrow)