Darkness can reign as we shed some light on the Hennessy
Paul Nicholls will have warm memories of last year's Hennessy when Denman outclassed the field before going on to repeat the feat in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The Hennessy seems to have a habit of throwing out possible contenders for both the Gold Cup and the Grand National and is often one of the most truly run races making it a valuable form guide for staying chases later in the season.
Nicholls will be licking his lips at the thought of producing another possible star as he saddles the current favourite for the Hennessy, Big Bucks. The horse is only a youngster at 5 years old but has already accumulated plenty of racing experience, contesting some hot races last season.
Most notable of which was his impressive win in the Grade 2 Mildmay Novices Chase where despite blundering badly over several fences stayed on very well to win. Take into account that he had several of his rivals for the Hennessy behind him that day, (Battlecry, Albertas Run, Joe Lively and Roll Along), and his chances begin to look even better. The 4/1 available certainly reflects his chances but there is value to be had on some bigger priced runners.
Paul Nicholls would appear to have another lively chance at over double the odds of Big Bucks in 11/1 shot Dear Villez. The horse won well on his reappearance this season at Limerick over 3m with ease in the ground where he jumped magnificently. He has won at Newbury before and still has plenty of room for improvement. Add that he will carry much less weight than Big Bucks and the 11/1 on offer starts to look even more appealing.
Any beast that can finish third in a Grand National would be an interesting contender in the Hennessy and in 16/1 shot Slim Pickings we have a horse that has finished third and fourth in the great race. Slim Pickings has stamina in abundance and there are no questions over his jumping. His reappearance this season saw him run second behind the useful Watson Lake over an inadequate 2m and on that form Slim Pickings starts to look very well handicapped for the Hennessy.
If 2006 Hennessy winner State of Play was a definite runner then he would be a selection at the 14/1 after his excellent win in the Charlie Hall chase. This horse goes very well fresh and the suggestions from its connections are that he will be put away until the spring with a possible tilt at the Gold Cup an option.
One at a bigger price to have a look at is the Charlie Egerton trained Darkness. Local trainers to Newbury (which Egerton is) have better records at the course than those from further a field.
A staying on third in the Royal SunAlliance at Cheltenham last year, having put in a poor round of jumping, Darkness is seen as a possible Grand National type so will stay the trip and should receive a fair bit of weight from some of his rivals. At 25/1, Darkness looks a decent bet for the Newbury showpiece.
Darkness 25/1 (NAP)
Dear Villez 11/1 (NB)