Hennessy Gold Cup Meeting Review
Sunday 8th February
I’m a huge fan of big cards on Sundays when there’s less racing fixture list congestion and far less competition for attention from football/cricket/rugby/”family time” and over in Ireland they seem to have nailed the idea of putting big cards on Sundays where more people can enjoy them. If only the RTE coverage was put on British TV it would be perfect but even so at least ATR is free to view!
1.15 Spring Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1)
Kicking us off for the day was a cracker – the 2m Gala Retail Spring Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1). Top of the pile sat Kalkir (5/4), one of Rich Ricci’s innumerable French purchases, sitting at 8/1 third favourite for the Cheltenham Festival Triumph Hurdle. An easy Grade 3 win already, his defeat by Fiscal Focus was put down to the ground and Ruby Walsh took the ride again today.
Second favourite Vercingetorix (9/4) – another French import, this time owned by Simon Munir & Issac Souede who are threatening to dominate the Triumph Hurdle market, owning favourite Peace & Co and the impressive Bristol De Mai. Petite Parisienne (6/1) and Officieux (7/1) were seen as the two main challenges, with the remaining 4 priced at 18/1 right out to 40/1.
The front runners Officeaux and I’ll Be Your Clown set the pace but faded early leaving the door open for a duel between Kalkir and the eventual winner Petite Parisienne, who got the better of 2nd in the final 100 yards with Prussian Eagle back in a close 3rd – the three pulled well clear of the rest of the field including a disappointing Vercingetorix.
Petite Parisienne was a high quality French 3 year old on the flat, recorded back to back RPRs of 97, and seems to have built on her 2nd on debut well. She’s a mare so received a 6lb allowance and will receive the same allowance in the Triumph Hurdle (best price 12/1). It was a good run and a good win – she jumped well – and she’s a very promising horse for the future for Gigginstown. The value for this year is gone for me however, as there are definitely better performances so far and Prussian Eagle being a close 3rd doesn’t do great for the form.
One horse which has come out of this race well is another of Rich Ricci’s – Dicosimo. He beat Prussian Eagle by over 7 lengths last time out, despite not jumping too well, on his hurdling debut – Prussian Eagle looked to be getting on top but Dicosimo showed an impressive turn of pace and won well in the end despite looking very green. Currently 25/1 in places but as short as 12/1 with Betfair, he’s well worth putting in the tracker – he could suddenly become Rich Ricci’s first string for the Triumph.
2.15 Deloitte Novice Hurdle
The Mares’ handicap hurdle (top mark 123) at 1.45pm was merely an interlude to the top quality racing; the Deloitte Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) is always an important trial for Cheltenham with the last two winners Champagne Fever and Vautour both winning a Novices race at the Festival. McCoy’s first ride of the meeting – and his first in Ireland since announcing his retirement plan – was on the favourite Alvisio Ville. Just the one run since finishing 3rd in France in 2013, that was an impressive win in a 4 year old maiden hurdle, and the market was behind him to make his 2nd Irish appearance a winning one.
An impressive lineup in the market behind him though; Nichols Canyon, rated 104 on the flat, was 9/2 second favourite, while Windsor Park (dual bumper winner), Silver Concorde (Cheltenham Festival Bumper winner), McKinley (Grade 1 winner just a month ago) and another of Ricci’s French imports Sempre Medici all featured.
With nearly half the field, it’s no surprise the winner was one of Willie Mullins – Nichols Canyon getting on top. It was a good pace, and the winner went hard up front with Alvisio Ville alongside him and Sempre Medici chasing. Following two out McCoy got increasingly animated in the saddle while Ruby Walsh was still sitting motionless – Windsor Park closed from the back of the field and reeled in the winner somewhat but never looked like getting close enough to challenge. It was an impressive win and he’s back on track after unseating last time out. He seems likely to go for the Neptune rather than the Supreme and joins another of Mullins’ charges (Outlander) as well as Shaneshill, Parlour Game and now Windsor Hill towards the top of the market. The Neptune is looking some race!
2.45 Flogas Novice Steeplechase
Another Grade 1, another Willie Mullins favourite – this time Valseur Lido ridden by Bryan Cooper. I’ll let Willie Mullins sum it up for you: “We avoided Christmas with Valseur Lido to aim him at this race. He’s fresh and well and if he jumps and travels as well as he did when winning the Drinmore in November then he will have a big chance. We’re looking forward to another high class performance.” At 5/4 favourite, the market agreed with him having a big chance, while his rating of 155 was 6 clear of anything else with a rating in the field.
Apache Stronghold, who was demolished by Valseur Lido in his Drimore win, was 9/2 second favourite, with another of the Ricci/Mullin French imports Adriana Des Mottes 13/2 and receiving a huge weight allowance for being a 5 year old mare. Other notable names included The Tullow Tank (9/1) who had a big hope going to last Cheltenham Festival in the novice hurdle category before Barry Connell decided not to run him until Philip Fenton’s case was heard and Shanahan’s Turn for Henry De Bromhead who was a Grade 2 winner in November.
McCoy cut out the running on Jarry D’Honneur, still looking for his first winner since announcing his retirement, but it was the held up Apache Stronghold who stormed up around the field before forcing his way through a gap to nip in front of Valseur Lido and hold on for the win. He doesn’t travel awfully well but it was a perfectly judged ride by Paul Carberry, and he battled hard to hold of the strong favourite. He had been entered into both the JLT and the RSA Novice Chases at Cheltenham but Noel Meade said he’d go to the JLT and then on to Fairyhouse all being well and that looks like it’ll suit him nicely. His jumping is improving race by race and he looks like he’ll relish the Cheltenham hill so he’s certainly one to watch.
I wouldn’t discount Valseur Lido just yet – he travelled into the race very well (although so did many) and when Bryan Cooper asked him for his effort he just found himself out paced by the eventual winner – he also hung badly into the winner. He’s still fairly inexperienced and could well be better than that form showed. He holds entries for the JLT, RSA and 4m and I’d love to see another rematch in the JLT between the front two – if that happens, I’d be taking the 12/1 Boyles are offering for Valseur Lido rather than the general 7/1 for the winner.
There was also a sad sidenote as the extremely promising Le Vent D’Antan suffered a fatal injury when falling at the last.
3.50 Hennessy Gold Cup
Another brief interlude with the 3.15 a handicap hurdle (top mark 137) – Sort It Out coming home as a winning favourite under McCoy for J P McManus to vibrant scenes in the winner’s enclosure. Gigginstown’s Fort Smith’s second is worth a footnote; he was 2nd in a Novice Grade 3 last season but remains a maiden and ran off a mark of 121. It would be great to see him back to his best and fulfil his potential.
Finally, we were to the main course of the afternoon – the Hennessy Gold Cup. No shock that Willie Mullins dominated the market for the €150,000 prize pool; On His Own, so unlucky in Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup defeat, sat clear 10/3 favourite, with another long time servant and Punchestown Gold Cup winner Boston Bob 5/1 fourth favourite.
They were the oldest two horses in the field (aside from 11/1 shot First Lieutenant, who now appears will take a shot at the Grand National in April), and the younger challengers were lining up to have a pop. Foxrock was well backed through the day into clear 7/2 second favourite – he’s already progressed from a smart Novice (Grade 2 winner at Navan and Naas) into an impressive Chaser, finishing 2nd in the Paddy Power Chase off 142 before easily dispatching the field off 7lb higher in the Boylesports Grade A Chase, but this was his first foray into stronger competition.
McCoy took the ride on Carlingford Lough, again owned by J P McManus, who won three Grade 1 Novice Chases last season on varying ground (4/1 third favourite) while Lord Windermere – the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup winner himself – was priced up at 7/1 following two average runs this season. No surprise there given he has shown by far his best career form so far at Cheltenham, and even this was likely more another prep run.
With A P McCoy having never ridden the winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup, it was almost written in the stars that he would drive the rapidly improving Carlingford Lough home. On His Own ran too freely out front but couldn’t battle back like he normally doesa and went backwards rapidly when headed. Foxrock looked like he would be battling Lord Windermere for the lead when jumping into first at the last but the classic McCoy drive paid off and Carlingford Lough got up. Still, second was an impressive performance for the 7 year old Foxrock – he’s not entered into any Cheltenham races and it’ll be interesting to see if he’s supplemented into the Gold Cup market.
Indeed, the market is looking increasingly open behind Silviniaco Conti – the winner being installed at 10/1 general, while Lord Windermere was cut to as short as 10/1 for his 3rd with his best performances always coming at Cheltenham. With Conti not known for loving Cheltenham, there’s more and more competition pressing to make their mark. Given Foxrock is o
4.20 Hunters Chase
Some big names in the field for the Hunters Chase, but the money came for Prince De Beauchene and it just about showed. Once rated 155 and competing in the Newbury Hennessy Gold Cup, he was sold by the Wylies so he’s out of their gold and black silks and backed up his last hunters chase win with another. This was a good win and he’s now a general 33/1 shot for the Grand National which would be incredible to see.
On The Fringe ran well (15/8) and with previous Cheltenham form (was 3rd in the Foxhunter Chase last Festival) the 8/1 for this year’s race shows the chance he has, especially with Nina Carberry on board. Salsify was making his first appearance for over a year and it showed, running free before running out of puff. Having won the Foxhunter’s Chase at Cheltenham in both 2012 and 2013, he’s definitely going to come on for this run and could be right in the mixer on the big day.
Last updated 8th February 2015.