The British jumps season moves into overdrive this Saturday with the coveted Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup taking place at Newbury, whilst up north Newcastle will play host to the equally-prestigious WBX.com ‘Fighting Fifth’ Hurdle.
At Newbury, Denman will take beating in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup. The Paul Nicholls-trained chaser has star material written all over him and he indicated this best by slamming Snowy Morning to the tune of 10 lengths in the Grade One Royal and Sun Alliance Novices’ Chase at this year’s Cheltenham festival.
Un-raced since then, the former winning Irish point-to-pointer could in effect be a champion in waiting and he can defy the burden of a top-weight of 11-12 on Saturday afternoon by providing the canny Nicholls with a second Hennessy victory as a trainer following on from Strong Flow in 2003.
Denman, who will be partnered by Sam Thomas in place of the injured Ruby Walsh, is likely to show a clean pair of heels to the in-form Ferdy Murphy’s New Alco.
Main supporting event
The main supporting event is the Grade Two totesport.com Long Distance Hurdle. this race could witness an intriguing clash between Inglis Drever and Black Jack Ketchum.
The Howard Johnson-trained Inglis Drever has been the outstanding staying hurdler of recent times and the eight-year-old can repeat last year’s success in this event by showing a clean pair of heels to Black Jack Ketchum under Youghal-born jockey Denis O’Regan.
Ardahey can continue trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies’ excellent season by getting the better of the lightly-weighted Cossack Dancer in the IG Index Handicap Chase and Charlie Mann’s Kanad can continue on his merry way by eclipsing French Opera in the Totescoop Six Intermediate Hurdle.
At Newcastle, Katchit is the star turn in the Grade One WBX.Com ‘Fighting Fifth’ Hurdle.
The Alan King-trained Katchit is a teak-tough customer as evidenced by his nine-length victory in this past season’s Grade One JCB Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival. Katchit has already made a victorious return to action this autumn and whilst he will have to meet his rivals here at level weights, the four-year-old seems to be a horse with genuine Champion Hurdle aspirations. He is selected to account for Noel Meade’s recent Grade One Punchestown Morgiana Hurdle winner Jazz Messenger.
Nicky Richards would like nothing more than have a winner on ‘Fighting Fifth’ day and the Greystoke operator looks sure to collect the WBX.com Rehearsal Chase with Faasel, whilst Idle Talk is another to concentrate on here. Meanwhile, All For The Cause is recommended to show a clean pair of heels to Bob’s Dream in the E.B.F./Gosforth Decorating and Building Services ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle.
There’s an extremely busy domestic programme over the weekend with Fairyhouse and Wexford to choose from on Saturday. There’s a top-class card at Fairyhouse on Sunday whilst closer to home, there’s also racing at Clonmel that same afternoon.
Rí Na Deise
Rí Na Deise can continue trainer John Kiely’s purple patch by returning to the coveted number one slot in the Ladbrokes 1800 777 888 Handicap Hurdle.
Rí Na Deise, owned by racing commentator Brian Gleeson, has won his two most recent starts and indeed, the six-year-old was particularly impressive when winning a two-mile handicap hurdle at Down Royal on November 3. The runner-up in that event Keelaghan will be better off with Rí Na Deise on this occasion and it is he who is recommended to chase home the Waterford horse.
Dusty Sheehy’s Quintana can continue on his upward curve by fighting off the attentions of seasonal debutant Heron’s Flight in the Bee Bee Developments Hurdle whilst Joe Crowley’s Minella Theatre can supplement his facile Punchestown debut bumper victory of October 31 by getting the better of Direct Exit in the extremely-competitive looking McGarrell Reilly (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.
At Fairyhouse on Saturday, Mattock Ranger looks set to show a clean pair of heels to his rivals in the Ladbrokes.com Porterstown Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse.
Mattock Ranger missed his engagement in last Sunday’s Troytown Chase at Navan, but the son of Oscar indicated he’s in line for another profitable campaign by making a triumphant to action with Paul Carberry in the stamina-sapping paddypower.com Cork Grand National Handicap Chase in early November. Whilst Mattock Ranger will have to shoulder top-weight here, he’s still recommended to possess too many aces for Michael O’Brien’s recent Cork beginners chase winner Le Toscan.
On Sunday, there’s no shortage of top-class racing at Fairyhouse with no less than three Grade One events down for decision. The featured event, if there is such a thing, is the Grade One Ballymore Properties Hatton’s Grace Hurdle and Sweet Kiln is likely to take all the beating here.
Trained by Michael Bowe, Sweet Kiln made a winning start to her campaign when slamming Rosaker by nine lengths in the Grade Two Philips Electronics Lismullen Hurdle with Tom Doyle on November 11.
Sweet Kiln if anything seems to be improving with age as an eight-year-old and the Beneficial-sired mare looks set to shrug off the attentions of Noel Meade’s classy six-year-old and possible Champion Hurdle contender Aitmatov.
Captain Cee Bee is the one to row in behind in the Grade One Bar-One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.
This Edward Harty-trained gelding has already won his two starts over flights to date and the Germany-sired gelding had little more than an exercise canter when beating former top-class bumper performer Leading Run by ten lengths in a Punchestown conditions hurdle in mid-November. This event will reflect a stiff increase in class, but Captain Cee Bee has an abundance of natural pace and he can propel himself towards the superstar league by dispensing with likely favourite Cork All Star.
French Accordion seems the most likely winner of the Ballymore Properties Drinmore Novice Chase.
French Accordion has won four consecutive starts this season and Paul Nolan’s own-brother to Accordion D’Etoile never even remotely came out of second gear when powering home by 14 lengths from the vastly more experienced Kahuna in the Grade Two Harrmack Developments Fortria Chase over two miles at Navan on November 11. A seriously talented sort, French Accordion is likely to prove much too strong for Sky’s The Limit here.
Glenfinn Captain can get back on the winning trail by proving marginally superior to Kranji in the Johnstown Handicap Chase and ‘Shark’ Hanlon’s Viking Splash looks set to get off the mark on his park debut in the O’Doherty’s Audio & Visual (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.
Winners will be quite difficult to come by at Wexford on Saturday, but Kilcrea Asla still looks the part in the opening Slaney Maiden Hurdle.
The Jimmy Mangan-trained six-year-old ran quite well off his 103 mark when finishing sixth, beaten a little over six lengths, behind the 86-rated Garryowen Star in a three-mile handicap hurdle at Clonmel on November 1. Kilcrea Asla, whilst stepping back in trip to two and a quarter miles here, is still likely to excel from the unexposed Kilkenny Allstar.
Liam Burke’s recent Dromahane maiden point-to-point winner Surenaga could make a winning start to his park career by dismissing Save The Bacon in the Mount Leinster Maiden Hurdle whilst Our Matti can attain due reward for his consistency by repelling Old Hall in the Rosslare (C & G) (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.
At Clonmel, those that support Merry Cowboy in the BDBC Building Contractors Handicap Chase should show a profit.
This Dusty Sheehy-trained six-year-old gave a hugely satisfactory account of himself when finishing fourth in a two miles six furlongs handicap chase behind Illringuback at Punchestown on November 18th. This event doesn’t appear to be as competitive and the Rock Hopper-sired gelding looks set to return to the winning groove here at the expense of Royal Heritage.
John Hassett’s High Oscar should supplement his recent well-supported success at Thurles by disposing of Gripit N Tipit in the Equine Warehouse Handicap Chase and Bluesea Cracker should have most to fear from Miss Aurelia in the Lisronagh Handicap Hurdle.