Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 17 December 2017

Highland Lodge's staying power can foil raiding party

Lord Windermere is fancied to win the Hennessy Gold Cup
Lord Windermere is fancied to win the Hennessy Gold Cup

Wayne Bailey

THERE are certain big chases in which the Irish horses never seem to do well in and the Hennessy Gold Cup (3.0 Newbury) is one of them. In fact, the last year we won was the same year Charlie Haughey famously went on the box to tell the nation that the country was banjaxed.

Looking at the state of the country now, it seems that we are back to square one and I wonder if the similarities with 1980 will continue today as Jim Culloty's Lord Windermere seeks to emulate Bright Highway's Irish victory that year for Michael O'Brien.

Until Bright Highway came along, the Irish hadn't won since Arkle (1965). Culloty has certainly been bullish about the seven-year-old, which is vying for favouritism alongside Paul Nicholls' Rocky Creek.

The Mallow-based handler, who won the Gold Cup aboard Best Mate three times, has described Lord Windermere's recent work at the Curragh as "blinding" and he even requested an overnight stable in a quieter area for the gelding last night, so he wouldn't be disturbed by a bloodstock sale which was taking place.

While the vibes from Culloty and jockey Robbie McNamara (who broke his collarbone yesterday and is replaced by Dougie Costello) are extremely positive, those of us not involved with the horse can only judge the animal by what we've seen so far.

And if the truth be told, the RSA Chase he won at Cheltenham was a substandard renewal, so he'll have to come on a bit from that if he's to see off 20 other runners today.

While he may be unexposed, just how much improvement he has in him remains to be seen. Had he been available at a double figure price, I would have taken a chance each-way, but at 7/1 or thereabouts, the value would appear to be gone.

Ruby Walsh is over to ride Willie Mullins' Prince De Beauchene and I should have mentioned earlier that Mullins had an Irish 'winner' in 2002 with Be My Royal. He was first past the post, but was later disqualified when failing a drugs test for morphine (the source of which was a contaminated food supply).

Prince De Beauchene is lightly raced and for the past couple of years Mullins was hoping he'd be a Grand National horse, but unfortunately he suffered some stress fractures and never made it to the big one at Aintree. At 10 years of age, it's a big ask, although he's not without his supporters at 12/1.

So, as much as I'd like to see an Irish winner, I reckon the prize will stay in Britain once again and Highland Lodge might be the one to side with around 11/1. Emma Lavelle's charge came back to form after seven months off at Wincanton last time when second to subsequent winner Standing Ovation in the 27-furlong Desert Orchid Handicap Chase, so the distance will be no problem for this out-and-out stayer.

He's 7lbs higher at 143, but I've a feeling we haven't seen the best of him yet and with Lavelle's string looking in fine fettle lately, he could prove the most dangerous of the home team this afternoon.


THE Geoffrey Oldroyd-trained five-year-old Alfred Hutchinson hasn't won since New Year's Day, but he's been holding his own in handicap company since and might be worth a couple of quid each way at 16/1 in this evening's Ladbrokes Handicap at Wolverhampton (8.20).

He was disappointing when fifth in a handicap here last time out off a mark of 92, but the assessor has dropped him down to 89 for today which gives him a fighting chance.


12.20 Newbury: Rosie Probert

2.05 Newcastle: Melodic Rendezvous

2.25 Newbury: Reve De Sivola

3.0 Newbury: Highland Lodge

6.50 Wolverhampton: Prestige Rose

8.20 Wolverhampton: Alfred Hutchinson (e/w)

Irish Independent

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