The Hennessy Gold Cup is considered by many to be the second biggest handicap chase of the season, behind the Grand National, and once again we have a strong race to look forward to at Newbury. There is a field of 21 runners entered for the race on Saturday with the betting struggling to split a number of them towards the head of the market.
In previous year's we have seen class animals like Denman and Bobs Worth win the Hennessy Gold Cup and while it remains to be seen if there is anything of that quality in the field this year, there does appear to be some nice contenders. One of those is certainly Lord Windermere who will run for Jim Culloty as a current Cheltenham Festival winner. The seven-year-old won the RSA Chase back in March and a good run here could well see him on the path to a Gold Cup run in March.
Other runners to keep an eye out for in the Hennessy field include Invictus, who has a win over Bobs Worth on his record and Rocky Creek, who will run for Paul Nicholls. The Ditcheat trainer has been aiming the second season chaser at the Hennessy for some time now and could have plenty of improvement in him ahead of this one.
The major supporting race on the Newbury card is the Long Distance Hurdle with At Fishers Cross the horse to follow. The Rebecca Curtis trained in-mate won the Albert Bartlett last season and will be stepping out of novice company for the first time on Saturday. The World Hurdle is likely to be his long term aim but he will face a stern test here against the likes of Reve De Sivola and Celestial Halo in a competitive renewal.
Newbury maybe the feature card in the UK on Saturday afternoon but there is also some great action up at Newcastle. The Fighting Fifth Hurdle is a top class grade 1 trial for the Champion Hurdle and once again we have an intriguing race to look forward to. Top class novice My Tent Or Yours will be making his seasonal debut for Nicky Henderson and big things are expected of the seven-year-old.
My Tent Or Yours finished second in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last season and is a shade of odds-on for his return on Saturday afternoon. He faces a real test though against the improving Melodic Rendezvous, who himself was a Grade 1 winning hurdler as a novice for Jeremy Scott. It will be a test for both horses with the Champion Hurdle market expected to be shaken up whatever the outcome of the Fighting Fifth.
One other horse to keep an eye on at Newcastle on Saturday is the hugely promising Oscar Rock. The Malcolm Jefferson trained in-mate is the current ante-post favourite for the Neptune Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham but he faces his toughest test yet against a decent field in the north-east. The five-year-old cruised to a win on his hurdling debut last time out but this could be a step up in class for the horse as his road to Cheltenham continues.
The top class action continues over in Ireland on Sunday afternoon with Fairyhouse playing host to one of the very best National Hunt fixtures this side of Christmas. There are no less three Grade 1 races to take in with a number of Cheltenham Festival hopefuls set to take their chance in some quality races.
The Royal Bond Novice Hurdle over two miles always produces a top class winner and once again there is a strong field assembled for this one. Willie Mullins has a strong chance, as always, with the Champion Trainer entering the likes of Alonso and Renneti in the race. Very Wood is another interesting contender for Gigginstown in a race which should sort out the men from the boys in the Irish two mile novice hurdle division.
RSA Chase contender, Don Cossack, is the likely favourite for the Drinmore Novice Chase on the same Fairyhouse card. It is a 2m4f affair, at Grade 1 level, and should be competitive with the likes of Sizing Rio and Art Of Logistics also expected to run well. It has thrown up some nice winners in the past, including Jessies Dream and Arvika Ligeonniere, and whoever comes out on top on Sunday is likely to be one to follow.
The third and final grade 1 at Fairyhouse on Sunday is the Hatton's Grace Hurdle over 2m4f. It promises to be real Champion Hurdle trial with Jezki and Rule The World set to go head-to-head in a potentially titanic clash. Jezki finished third in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last season, while Rule The World was second in the Neptune during the same meeting which highlights the class of the pair. The both have a win under their belts this season and this could well tell us exactly how good they both are with the rest of the season in mind.