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2011 Hennessy Gold Cup Review – A poor renewal?

Now that the dust has begun to settle on yesterday’s Hennessy Gold Cup what conclusions does the result bring to the fore?

A less than vintage renewal? The front 3 were all, to a certain extend, exposed individuals and it has to be deemed disappointing that none of last season’s novice chasers managed to make much of an impact. Taking nothing away, however, from the tough CARRUTHERS as I’m sure very few people begrudge him his time in the limelight.

Are last season’s novice chasers overrated? Quite possibly. It’s certainly unusual for most/all to run below expectation and surely they can’t have all run below form? Can they? I wouldn’t be writing any of them off (completely) but you would be hard pushed to make a strong case for any of the 2nd season chasers running in yesterdays race to go on and give Long Run and co. a serious scare in the Gold Cup/King George.

Here is my full review off all 18 runners in yesterdays prestigious Grade 3 handicap chase –

1st – CARRUTHERS (M Bradstock) – Fabulous to see him win the race but he will surely be put back up to a mark that will see him struggle in handicaps and he has proven in the past that he just isn’t quite up to the Grade in the top conditions races. This was his first win outside of a single figure field since his second ever racecourse appearance (novice hurdle at Chepstow) so on that angle I was slightly surprised to see him fend off numerous challengers and still run out a comfortable winner. Future success probably rests with connections finding a small field Graded Chase where he can boss his field although he is likely to run with credit in some top handicaps without getting his head in front.

2nd – PLANET OF SOUND (P Hobbs) – A big run at a track he loves and the breathing op he recently underwent obviously had the desired effect. It’s debatable if he really is a 160+ rated individual (ran off 158 yesterday) but he deserves to have another crack in Graded company. There is talk of a tilt at the Aintree Grand National although he doesn’t strike me as an obvious sort for that test.

3rd – FAIR ALONG (P Hobbs) – I had him down as potentially starting to become a tad quirky and he didn’t look over-keen before and during the early stages of yesterdays race. He finished with an absolute rattle and although he is a classy horse in his own right its his 3rd place finish that has me doubting the form of this race. He is a 9yo with 40 National Hunt starts to his name and although it can be argued he was well treated on his best form it must be deemed disappointing that he finished someway ahead of the 2nd season chasers. His run in itself was strange – front to back followed by numerous errors then back to the front again – and the fact he was able to run like that and still finish 3rd must be a worry for the others.

4th – GREAT ENDEAVOUR (D Pipe) – Did he stay or did he not? Well he certainly stayed better than 14 others in the race! I’m not a fan of a horse being held up out the back in order to ‘improve its chances of staying the longer trip’. If it is going to stay further it will have just as much chance by riding it in its normal style. I would have prefered to have seen Great Endeavour ‘in the van’ most of the way rather than bobbing along out the back ‘preserving his stamina’. I’m not convinced the tank was empty when Murphy went to challenge and getting beat 5 lengths by Carruthers (giving the winner 5lbs) does not scream ‘non-stayer’ to me. I thought this was a good performance and would personally like to see him in something like the Pillar Chase (whatever it is called this season!) ridden in his normal style, then we can maybe take a better assesment of his staying capablities. On pedigree I give him a decent chance of staying a trip and yesterday has done nothing to dampen that.

5th – BESHABAR (T Vaughan) – A decent performance on his seasonal return and kept plugging on well to the line. The National seems to be the long term plan and although he has the size and scope to jump the Aintree fences he did scew over a couple of his jumps yesterday and that is a slight concern for when tackling the demanding National obstacles. He isn’t a bad jumper by any stretch but a couple of ‘awkward’ jumps over something like Bechers or the Chair could spell disaster.

6th – WYMOTT (D McCain) – A decent run from the 7yo on ground he probably would not have enjoyed. He never really looked like getting involved at the business end but providing he doesn’t get moved up the handicap (no reason he should) then there could well be a valuable handicap in him somewhere throughout the winter. Whether he is any better than a decent handicapper remains to be seen.

7th – THE GIANT BOLSTER (D Bridgewater) – A fluent enough round from the 6yo, however, I can’t help but feel he isn’t quite good enough for races such as this.

8th – BLAZING BAILEY (A King) – Decent enough performance but probably stuck a bit in no-mans-land off his current mark. Hard to see where they go with him this season.

9th – TULLAMORE DEW (N Gifford) – The step up in trip should have suited but I still doubt if he is up to this level. Races in him somewhere but not in races like this.

10th – MICHEL LE BON (P Nicholls) – Ran well for a very long way and one can’t help but feel the 8yo will improve bundles for this experience. Essentially this was a ‘learning on the job’ run and it was pleasing to see him quickly recover from the couple of errors he made. Ultimately he faded when push came to shove but it would have been an astronomical training performance should Paul Nicholls have got this one into the winners enclosure. He remains of considerable interest for the rest of the season.

11th – AITEEN THIRTYTHREE (P Nicholls) – They way he seemingly emptied in the home-straight was disappointing and this goes down as a poor run in my book. He was exuberant yet smooth at plenty of his jumps and although he was fiddly at a couple of fences he was essentially jumping well. It could be that this trip was on the short side for him and races such as the Welsh National, Scottish National and perhaps even the Aintree National may be where his future sits although they way he wilted after 3 out was far from encouraging.

12th – BALTHAZAR KING (P Hobbs) – Outclassed and it showed.

13th – MUIRHEAD (N Meade) – Never really looked in contention and generally been a tricky customer at varying stages of his career. Wouldn’t be in a huge rush to back him off his current mark, even though he is a few lbs below his hurdle mark still.

14th – QHILIMAR (C Longsdon) – Outclassed and never a factor.

PU – NEPTUNE COLLONGES (P Nicholls) – Seems to sulk if he doesn’t get a lead these days and that looked to be the case here. He’s basically needs to be able to dominate his field (see last seasons victory at Cheltenham) and I wouldn’t read too much into this performance.

PU – BILLIE MAGERN (N Twiston-Davies) – Another that probably needs to dominate smaller fields.

PU – WAYWARD PRINCE (I Williams) – Never in the race and jumping looked scrappy. He should come on for this run although he may prove hard to place this term.

F – SARANDO (P Webber) – Was still in the thick of the action when coming down so hard to really assess his performance. Potentially more to come but would be surprised to see him make a serious impact outwith handicap company.

CARRUTHERS, PLANET OF SOUND and FAIR ALONG are along decent horse in their own right but the lack of a strong showing from the second season chasers is a concern.

Will this renewal provide a plethora of future winners? The jury is very much out for me.

What was your take on yesterdays proceedings?

Leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

Ben (NTF)

8 responses to “2011 Hennessy Gold Cup Review – A poor renewal?”

  1. Did Great Endeavour hit the front or come close to it at at anytime in the straight (maybe approaching 2 out), or was it just an impression given by camera angles and Murphy taking him on the inside? I don’t think he was over-confidently ridden or given too much to do in that respect. Personally i felt he wouldn’t stay, and was thinking as they approached the straight “lay lay lay” given Murphys look-as-quiet-as-a-mouse riding style and doubts i had (went 2.0 IR). Time will tell… agree though that it won’t be seen in the long term as a great renewal.

    Rgds.

    • It was a deceiving camera angle but Great Endeavour may well have hit the front momentarily. It could well be that time proves he doesn’t fully stay these trips but I do think he is well worth another pop over a 3m+ distance.

      Thanks for the comment

  2. An interesting look at the race.
    My thought on CARRUTHERS is that he won simply because he outstayed them all and raced off a decent mark of OR146. So long as he’s not hammered by the handicapper (ie raised 10lb) he’s worth a chance at the Welsh National, the Eider, and Haydock’s National trial.
    Considering it was only his 4th race beyond 2m6f, PLANET OF SOUND must now be one of the top-5 staying chasers in training this side of the Irish Sea; the “Pillar” and the Gold Cup await. He reminds me of Sir Rembrandt in that he stays well but has no gears.
    FAIR ALONG in 3rd proved to me that the going was softer than “good”, and (like the winner) he has stamina to burn.
    That the going was on the soft side of good was the undoing of GREAT ENDEAVOUR – he was tanking along looking the most likely winner going into the 2nd-last, and I agree that he was given too much to do by Murphy.
    Of the others, 1833 does not stay 3-mile and Balthazar King hates double-figure fields. Wayward Prince was very disappointing.
    As for my antepost “tip” SARANDO, had he not fallen he probably would have stayed-on and certainly finished in front of Wymott. The worry I have with him is that he was shaken-up to jump the fence before he fell, and I felt he was starting to feel the pressure on the run-up to the fence he fell at. I think he can win off OR153 in a less competitive handicap, but he’s unlikely to be a 160+ horse.
    I’m continuing to build-up antepost slips on the Irish horses – Quito De La Roque, Jessie’s Dream, Boston’s Angel and Noble Prince – for the Gold Cup.

    • Hi Ian

      Planet of Sound = Sir Rembrandt, I can kinda see that. He looked to be coming there with a big big shout but as you say his lack of gears just found him out. Sarando; yeah was probably starting to feel the pinch and it may just be he is sitting at the ceiling of his abilities at the minute.

      It does now look like the main 2nd season challengers will come from over the Irish Sea.

      Thanks for the comment

    • Yes David I would agree that its unlikely many of the runners will be shaking up the Gold Cup/King George markets. Michel le Bon has potential being this was only his 2nd chase start and providing Planet of Sounds wind operation continues to bear fruit he could pop his head into some of the finishes of the top graded races.

  3. Beshabar did finish lame yesterday and Planet Of Sound could be a dark horse come April. Pos dosage looks ideal but he’s limited experience at 3 miles plus but he does appear to stay. Yesterday Planet jumping looked superb but last looked a bit deliberate however he rallied to take second.

    The weights are a concern but reading earlier in the year that the minimum ratings for the national has gone up from 110 to 120 would this have a knock on affect.

    • Planet of Sound is interesting but I think a lot hinges on the breathing op continuing to work. He does have the Dosage of a stayer and the back class of a classy animal (Arkle and Haldon form).

      Cheers

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