Confidence grows as raiders bid to end Hennessy drought
Lord Windermere continues to vie for favouritism in tomorrow's Hennessy Gold Cup market, but fellow raider Prince De Beauchene has been the major mover since Ruby Walsh was confirmed as his partner at the final declaration stage.
Walsh's only two cross-channel forays this term have been lucrative, with both of his Irish-trained mounts obliging, Annie Power's fantastic Ascot triumph last week coming on the back of Quick Jack's Cheltenham coup for Tony Martin eight days earlier earlier.
Tomorrow it is Willie Mullins who is again the provider, as the champion trainer seeks to erase the memory of By My Royal's 2002 Hennessy disqualification following a positive blood test.
Placed on both its starts behind Roi Du Mee this term, Prince De Beauchene was 20/1 with one bookmaker yesterday morning. However, within a couple of hours of the final 21-strong field being unveiled, the same firm had halved his odds to 10/1 as potential losses mounted -- though offerings of 14/1 are still available in some places.
A leading fancy for the last two Aintree Grand Nationals before being scratched at the 11th hour due to injury, Prince De Beauchene carries 11st 9lb tomorrow. Jim Culloty's RSA Chase hero Lord Windermere (below) will shoulder just a pound less on his seasonal bow under amateur rider Robbie McNamara and the smart seven-year-old has shortened to a general 7/1 alongside Rocky Creek (11st 5lb), which represents Walsh's old boss Paul Nicholls.
January's Argento Chase winner Cape Tribulation tops the weights on 11st 12lb and he will renew rivalry with his closest Prestbury Park victim that day, the ageing 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup victor Imperial Commander (11st 7lb).
The popular Invictus, conqueror of Bobs Worth when last seen at Ascot in February 2012, will carry 10st 13lb under Robert Thornton, with Our Father, Katenko, Hadrians Approach and Highland Lodge all standing their ground.
Mullins will also saddle Terminal (10st 12lb), while Oliver McKiernan's Paddy Mangan-ridden Whodoyouthink completes a four-strong raiding party in the prestigious three-mile chase that -- prior to By My Royal's exclusion -- last came this way courtesy of Michael O'Brien's Bright Highway in 1980.
There were no surprises among the declarations for tomorrow's Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, with Nicky Henderson's classy JP McManus-owned My Tent Or Yours set to meet seven others as he begins his Champion Hurdle preparations under AP McCoy. Jeremy Scott's recent Elite Hurdle winner Melodic Rendezvous is the only one of the 4/5 shot's rivals to trade at less than double-figure odds at a top-priced 11/4 for the Grade One.
Fairyhouse manager Peter Roe has issued an upbeat bulletin on the ground conditions ahead of this weekend's showpiece two-day spread, a fixture that has been plagued by the elements in recent years.
"At this time of year there is no real drying, but for the first time since the year 2000 the words 'soft' or 'heavy' will not appear in the going description for this meeting. That's great in itself," Roe admitted.
"At the moment the ground is good, good to yielding in places. I don't think it will change significantly; we have no serious rain forecast."
Meanwhile, Coolmore has revealed that St Nicholas Abbey's recovery from a fractured pastern and colic has met another complication.
"St Nicholas Abbey is struggling to overcome laminitis in his left front foot," a statement revealed of the six-time Group One winner that earned a record £5m in prize money during his career.
"This is, indeed, life-threatening and is the single biggest complication he has faced since his initial lifesaving surgery.
"The next few weeks are critical for St Nicholas Abbey -- we are just hoping that he can turn the corner."