Denman heads Hennessy hopes

DENMAN has been left at the head of the weights and is one of 34 remaining entries for the Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday week.

After Paul Nicholls decided to take Kauto Star out of the race, the Paul Barber-owned 10-year-old will have to carry 11st 12lb if he is to create history by becoming the first horse to win the handicap for a third time.

Having hauled around top weight 12 months ago, this time he has to do it off an 8lb higher mark.

Stablemates Neptune Collonges, Taranis and What A Friend, due to run at Haydock this week, are among only a handful of others who will be running off their correct marks.

China Rock, who ran so well against Kauto Star at Down Royal, former winner Madison Du Berlais, Silver By Nature and Barbers Shop are the others.

Nicholls also has The Tother One, Take The Breeze and Niche Market to choose from.

The likes of Weird Al, Diamond Harry, Burton Port, Big Fella Thanks and Pandorama are all due to run from just out of the handicap.

Willie Mullins will not be represented as he has taken out Arbor Supreme, Quiscover Fontaine and The Midnight Club.

Burton Port could be Nicky Henderson’s only runner unless Denman is a surprise defector.

Glencove Marina is engaged, but trainer Eoin Griffin is instead eyeing the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown.

“We’ll be giving the Hennessy a skip and he’ll be going for the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown on December 5,” said the County Kilkenny trainer.

“All’s been well with him since he won at Thurles. He’s in good order. We’ll keep him to that kind of trip – two and a half miles – for the time being.

“The Durkan looks a better option for him at this stage.”

Newbury clerk of the course Richard Osgood reports the ground at the Berkshire track to be currently good to soft.

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One smart schooling session was enough to convince Nicky Henderson he has Binocular on song for the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle a week on Saturday.

Henderson started last season with such high hopes for his French-bred gelding, but he got off to the worst possible start in last year’s renewal at Gosforth Park, finishing only fifth.

Things did not come right until just before the Cheltenham Festival, where he enjoyed his crowning moment in the Champion Hurdle.

“The Fighting Fifth was a disaster last year but I’m much happier with him,” said Henderson.

“You can tell as much from schooling them as you can tell from working them and he only popped over five the other day, but he was brilliant. If he schools right, he is right.

“The way the races are graded is the path you take, so the obvious steps are the Fighting Fifth and then the Christmas Hurdle is the next Grade One.”

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WILLIE Mullins believes Morning Supreme could have an exciting future – if the mare takes to fences.

A winner of three of her four starts over timber, she lost her unbeaten record against the useful For Bill at Fairyhouse in April.

She makes her debut over the larger obstacles in the www.thurlesraces.ie Beginners Chase today at the County Tipperary track.

“She was never a great jumper of hurdles and she has a very quick style of racing so we’ve decided to go chasing with her,” said Mullins.

“Is she going to take to it? She could be an exciting type of mare because she races very quick and if she takes to fences well, she’ll be something to look forward to.

“If not we’ll go back over hurdles with her but she’ll go on the ground,” he told At The Races.

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Paul Moloney has come in for the plum ride on Nacarat in Saturday’s Betfair Chase at Haydock.

The mount became available as the men Tom George has called upon recently, Paddy Brennan and Sam Thomas, have been claimed to ride Imperial Commander and What A Friend respectively.

Tony McCoy, who has ridden Nacarat five times, is likely to be on duty at Ascot on the same afternoon.

George is now looking for some continuity and has also asked Moloney to ride the bold-jumping grey in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

“Tom’s asked me to ride him and it’s great news,” said Moloney.

“I’ve ridden him before and I know the horse, he’s not a complicated ride at all.

“He was very impressive at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall, he barely came off the bridle.

“Tom says he’s sorted him out this year and he’s had a much clearer run with him.

“You’ve got the Gold Cup winner and Paul Nicholls’ horse, What A Friend, in there so it won’t be easy.”

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LOOSEN My Load could next be seen in the William Hill Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Henry de Bromhead’s six-year-old lost his unbeaten record over fences in Cheltenham’s Independent Newspaper Novices’ Chase but lost nothing in defeat behind Ghizao and Captain Chris.

He was attempting to concede 6lb to to the front two and the County Waterford handler is now considering a step up in trip.

“We were pleased with Loosen My Load’s run as he gave 6lb to the first two and the objective was to learn more about him,” De Bromhead told his website, www.henrydebromheadracing.com.

“We now feel he needs more of a trip and, as such, we’ll have a look at stepping him up with the Feltham at Kempton being one option to consider if Sizing Europe was to make the journey over for the King George.”

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