Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with five to follow on Saturday at Newbury and Newcastle. View selections below
The Hennessy Gold Cup is one of the biggest betting races of the year and nineteen go to post for Newbury’s flagship jumps race of the year and it is another fascinating renewal. No five-year-old has won the race in its 57 year history but rules are made to be broken and I think Djakadam (3.00) has got into the race off a very decent mark and am prepared to take a chance that his stamina holds over this extended three-and-a-quarter miles.
Trainer Willie Mullins has never saddled the winner of this valuable and prestigious contest although he did have the first past the post back in 2002 when Be My Royal “won” but was subsequently disqualified after a trace of Morphine was found in his urine.
The horse has never beaten anything of note over fences, lacks experience and has history against him but he was travelling very well when he came down four out in the JLT at the Cheltenham Festival back in March and those that finished in the money are now rated in or around the 160 mark. Djakadam can race off a handicap mark of 142 and he is undeniably well treated. He is 5/1 at BetVictor but might continue to drift.
Merry King ran well in defeat in this corresponding race last season on ground faster than ideal and he will appreciate today’s soft ground; he merits plenty of respect as does The Druids Nephew although Davy Russell will have his hands full getting the latter around in one piece.
Monetaire (3.35) is 3lbs higher than when finishing third at Cheltenham where he would surely have gone very close but for a massive mistake at the first on his British debut. Both his wins in his native France were gained on heavy ground and he might prefer this smaller field. Paul Nicholls saddled 4-y-old (Ulck Du Lin) to win this corresponding race two years ago and he receives a 7lbs weight-for-age allowance.
Newcastle also stage their flagship jumps card of the winter and I feel Aurore D’Estruval (2.05) can take advantage of her 7lbs mares’ allowance in the feature Fighting Fifth which is hardly a vintage renewal of this Grade 1 contest. I was with Irving when he fell at the last when challenging at Wincanton on his reappearance and he is a worthy favourite but the mare couldn’t have been more impressive at Wetherby earlier in the month and at 4/1 with BetVictor might be the value.
Victors Serenade goes very well fresh and is not certain to back up his recent Chepstow win in the Rehearsal Chase from a 7lb lower mark. Indian Castle will appreciate the return to 3 miles but last year’s runner up Vintage Star (2.40) can reverse form with Hey Big Spender on identical terms on today’s softer ground.
The French Furze Novices’ Hurdle is a cracker with hurdling debutant, but winning pointer, Definitly Red the one to beat having given weight and a beating to his seven rivals at Cheltenham in a listed Bumper at the recent Open meeting. He could be a different class but I was very taken with Chidswell (1.05) at Ayr returning from a near 12-month break and he can maintain his unbeaten record.