Wymott has class to land Hennessy
THIS afternoon's Hennessy Gold Cup has the makings of another cracking renewal of the prestigious handicap, albeit one that may ultimately lack vintage status.
Muirhead is the sole Irish hope, as Noel Meade seeks to end the 31-year drought since Michael O'Brien's Bright Highway took the Newbury showpiece on the back of success in the Paddy Power equivalent at Cheltenham. Only Arkle preceded Bright Highway, while Be My Royal was disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance having passing the post first for Willie Mullins and David Casey in 2002.
Muirhead, a somewhat unpredictable character, can't be trusted to end the long wait, however.
The David Pipe-trained Great Endeavour isn't fancied to stay the three-and-a-quarter-mile trip as he goes after the Cheltenham-Newbury double, while Michel Le Bon, one of two Paul Nicholls contenders, is up against it on his second chasing start, and his first for two years. Aiteen Thirtythree is Ruby Walsh's pick and looks a contender.
Twice a winner over fences before being pulled up in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, he was the subject of a sympathetic ride from Walsh over an inadequate trip at Kempton on his return last month. A stone wrong at the weights with Somersby on that occasion, he could still be an each-way poke off his correct rating here.
Sarando is also interesting for a place at double-figure odds, but it is Wymott that gets the nod for the win. Don McCain's smart seven-year-old won a Grade Two on his final hurdling start, before then completing a three-timer over fences last term.
On Wymott's final outing, he was another to be pulled up with an injury in the RSA Chase.
Coming from the stable that he does, and bearing in mind that five of the last six winners made their seasonal bows here, that lack of a recent run is no concern.
What is crucial is that Graham Lee's mount is a straightforward horse with a touch of class. Off a mark of 144 for just 10st 2lb, he could be the value option at around 7/1.
The in-form Nicky Henderson can take the novices' handicap chase with Master Fiddle. Out of the stable's former classy mare Fiddling The Facts, this six-year-old won a bumper on its debut in 2010, before holding its own over flights last term.
On its handicap debut here off 114 in March, Master Fiddle won in style, and then finished third off today's mark of 122 at Ayr. With his pedigree, however, he is bred for fences, so he can be expected to figure now on his first try for Barry Geraghty.
The Co Meath-based rider has an intriguing ride on the Group-placed All The Aces in the novice hurdle, but Prospect Wells is taken to frank Steps To Freedom's recent Cheltenham form in this. Just edged out then, Ruby Walsh's mount is a decent sort.
Up at Newcastle, Binocular is opposable in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. When the layers first opened an ante-post book on this a fortnight ago, the former champion hurdler stood out as being overpriced at 2/1, but he is worth taking on at odds-on.
Twice beaten in the Grade One at similar odds on his seasonal reappearance already, Henderson's seven-year-old isn't always the most reliable. With the market the way it is, Overturn, available at up to 3/1 yesterday evening, is preferred.
A slightly fortuitous winner at Ascot last week, you know exactly what you will get with Don McCain's game front-runner, and the bit of good ground here will be to his advantage. The fact that Celestial Halo could press him for the early lead is a slight concern, but that one may not be able to cope with the selection's pace anyway.
Best Bet: Overturn