Irish interests in the 23-strong field for Saturday’s hugely prestigious Hennessy Gold Cupstaying handicap at Newbury are spiked by the likely participation of last season’s RSA Chase winner Lord Windermere, who represents the Jim Culloty team.
Culloty said: “I think he’s got a great chance, I really fancy him.
“I always hoped he would turn into an RSA horse and he did us proud at Cheltenham.
“Robbie McNamara (who rides on Saturday) rode him once last season and when he schooled him (on Monday morning) he said he is twice the horse he was last year.”
Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins has left in Prince De Beauchene, Terminal, On His Own and Vesper Bell.
Fellow Irish challenger Whodoyouthink, trained by Oliver McKiernan, is at the foot of the weights.
Other of note include Highland Lodge, Merry King and Trio D’Alene.
North Yorkshire trainer Malcolm Jefferson is in no rush to decide whether to let Cape Tribulation carry top weight following the defection of Tidal Bay, who finished fifth in the Betfair Chase at Haydock at the weekend.
The weights are set to be raised by around a stone after Tidal Bay was ruled out by Paul Nicholls.
However, the trainer said he had no worries about the fitness of leading fancy Rocky Creek. “Rocky Creek hasn’t had a run but he’s had a couple of racecourse gallops and we’ve done a lot of work with him. A lot of ours this year have been needing a run — I’ve never known a year like it for getting condition off horses — but I’ve got him as fit and as straight as I can. I’ve got stuck into him and he’s done plenty.”
The Sue Smith trained Cloudy Too is set to take his chance at Newbury, despite being given an entry in Newcastle’s At The Races Rehearsal Chase on the same day.
The seven-year-old was a most impressive winner of a Listed race at Carlisle at the start of the month.
Harvey Smith, husband of the Grand National-winning handler, said: “He’s in good form and looking well.
“All being well he’ll be running (at Newbury). The Newcastle race is just a back-up option.”
Opening Batsman, last season’s Racing Plus Chase winner, was pulled up on his seasonal return in Ascot’s United House Gold Cup, but trainer Harry Fry is keeping his fingers crossed his charge will return to form in first-time cheekpieces.
Ante-post favourite Invictus has been all the rage for the coveted prize following his three-length defeat of Bobs Worth at Ascot in February 2012, although he has not run since then.
Trainer Alan King said: “He schooled (on Monday morning) over nine fences and he went well. He’ll do a bit of work on the grass on Wednesday and that will be it.”
Other leading fancies to have stood their ground include Rocky Creek, Katenko, Our Father and the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Imperial Commander.
Twiston-Davies could also be represented by Same Difference, while Katenko’s trainer, Venetia Williams, may saddle Houblon Des Obeaux.
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