Alan King’s Invictus has been one of the talking horses of the national hunt season and the Barbury Castle inmate will finally be able to show whether he is the real deal when he makes his first start in 651 days in what is set to be a superb renewal of the hotly-anticipated Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday afternoon.
Last seen beating subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth and Silviniaco Conti in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot, the seven-year-old has been off the track since that three-length victory, but the support for him in the betting has somewhat dried up over the last couple of days as he faces a gargantuan task to defeat what is a star-studded field.
One horse that has been plummeting in the market is the Jim Culloty-trained Lord Windermere, who is now vying for favouritism for this contest that often throws up a leading contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. Culloty has been ebullient about his stable star’s chances in this valuable handicap as he won the RSA Chase with aplomb in March and could shape into one of Ireland’s leading staying chasers.
Paul Nicholls knows how to lift this crown having saddled Denman to a brace of memorable wins and the Ditcheat maestro will unleash the exciting Rocky Creek, who progressed nicely last term and was an impressive winner of the aforementioned Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase, before finding Dynaste too classy in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase, however, Nicholls has always thought highly of this raider and he is another prominent figure in the betting.
Whilst there’s an abundance of emerging talent looking to propel into the big time there will be one contender who will be looking to go out with a bang as former Gold Cup hero Imperial Commander is set to finish his racing career at Newbury on Saturday and you’d be naive to rule out Nigel Twiston-Davies’ veteran sneaking into the money.
David Pipe has been starring on the big occasion of late and the Pond House handler will saddle Our Father, who is very lightly-raced over fences and could well look to utilise an attractive racing weight, whilst Emma Lavelle’s Highland Lodge is another in the lower echelons of the handicap and will attempt to use this race as a springboard to bigger and better things.
Willie Mullins ventured over to British shores last weekend and bagged a big prize with Annie Power and the Irish superstar will look to Prince De Beauchene to try and land the spoils and he is a thorough stayer and warrants respect, with Donald McCain’s Super Duty another at a double-figured price who could offer excellent each-way value in a wide open betting race.
Nicky Henderson won this race 12 months ago with Bobs Worth and he will unleash a dual-pronged attack with Barry Geraghty opting to partner Triolo D’alene, but the Seven Barrows’ handler will also like the chance of Hadrian’s Approach who could feature, with Paddy Power Gold Cup winning duo Jonjo O’Neill and Richie McLernon teaming up with Merry King in what is a devilishly difficult conundrum to work out for punters heading to the Berkshire venue.