Big guns stand their ground in Hennessy Gold Cup

A total of 23 entries remain for Saturday’s 58th edition of the Hennessy Gold Cup , the longest-running commercial sponsorship in world sport.

Willie Mullins’ Djakadam could bid to become the first ever five-year-old to win the race and the first Irish winner since Bright Highway in 1980.

The in-form Philip Hobbs, who won the Hennessy back in 2001 with What’s Up Boys, is set to rely on Fingal Bay and the Minehead trainer is clearly excited about his prospects. He said:

“He’s in very good order and he is just a high class horse. To win a race off top weight at the Cheltenham Festival [Pertemps Final] proved that.

“This has been the target for a long time and I haven’t even looked at the other entries, so I can’t say who I fear at this stage.

“I don’t think the handicapper has been particularly lenient, but he’s on a workable mark.

“I’m not in the slightest bit concerned about the ground. Soft would be grand and although you never really want heavy, he would cope with it better than most.”

Paul Nicholls has an enviable record in the Hennessy, winning it twice as a jockey and three times as a trainer. He has three possible runners this year, but Rocky Creek, the runner-up 12 months ago, looks his number one hope.

The champion trainer said: “Rocky Creek has done well since Down Royal and the run certainly won’t be lost on him. He’ll improve again and the soft ground will be ideal.

“He ran very well in the Hennessy last year and has strengthened up since then. He had some good Grade 1 form last season, but he was quite difficult to get right at times.

Of his other two contenders, Nicholls added: “Black Thunder had a fairly hard race at Ascot earlier this month and we’ll make a decision on whether he runs later in the week.

“There’s an option to go to Sandown the following weekend and we’ll just have to see how the race looks.

“Unioniste hasn’t run for a while, but he’s a good staying chaser. He’s a lively outsider.”

Alan King’s Smad Place, who worked at the track last week as part of a media event, could be joined by his stablemate Midnight Prayer, while Oliver Sherwood’s Many Clouds is also set to line-up.

Nicky Henderson has won the last two renewals of the Hennessy Gold Cup and last year’s winner Triolo D’Alene could bid for back-to-back successes. He could be joined by another Seven Barrows inmate, Hadrian’s Approach, who unseated Nico de Boinville at the fifth fence 12 months ago.

The Druids Nephew ran a solid race at Cheltenham a couple of weeks ago and he could represent Neil Mulholland.

Following rain at the track on Saturday night into Sunday, the ground is now soft on the chase course and soft, heavy in places on the hurdles course.

Horse Age Owner Trainer
Houblon des Obeaux (FR) 7 Mrs Julian Blackwell Venetia Williams
Triolo d’Alene (FR) 7 Mr & Mrs Sandy Orr Nicky Henderson
Rocky Creek (IRE) 8 The Johnson & Stewart Families Paul Nicholls
Ballynagour (IRE) 8 Mr Allan Stennett David Pipe
Black Thunder (FR) 7 Donlon, MacDonald, Fulton & Webb Paul Nicholls
Smad Place (FR) 7 Mrs Peter Andrews Alan King
Fingal Bay (IRE) 8 Mrs R. J. Skan Philip Hobbs
Hadrian’s Approach (IRE) 7 Mr & Mrs R. Kelvin-Hughes Nicky Henderson
Vino Griego (FR) 9 Mr C. E. Stedman Gary Moore
Many Clouds (IRE) 7 Mr Trevor Hemmings Oliver Sherwood
Unioniste (FR) 6 Mr J. Hales Paul Nicholls
Monbeg Dude (IRE) 9 Oydunow Michael Scudamore
Annacotty (IRE) 6 Mrs Peter Prowting Martin Keighley
What A Warrior (IRE) 7 Mr & Mrs Gordon Pink Dan Skelton
Djakadam (FR) 5 Mrs S. Ricci W. P. Mullins
The Druids Nephew (IRE) 7 The Stonehenge Druids Neil Mulholland
Wychwoods Brook (GB) 8 Kevin & Anne Glastonbury Evan Williams
Midnight Prayer (GB) 9 The Legends Partnership Alan King
Via Sundown (FR) 6 The Old Brokers Gary Moore
Victors Serenade (IRE) 9 Michael & Angela Bone Anthony Honeyball
Le Reve (IRE) 6 Mr P. H. Betts Lucy Wadham
Merry King (IRE) 7 Mr F. Gillespie Jonjo O’Neill
Edmund Kean (IRE) 7 Walters Plant Hire & James & Jean Potter Peter Bowen