Our Winning streak came to a halt last weekend but Big Easy did us proud finishing second. Today, we target excellent Grade 3 Hennessy Gold Cup. This race has proved a very happy hunting ground for second season chasers who are a step ahead of the handicapper. 23 of the last 30 winners started in the first four in the betting so the market has nailed this race more often than not. Fingal Bay is the one I like near the head of the market and on his first start back in Handicap Company. Fingal Bay is priced up at 8/1 but Merry King is the one who offers the best value bet in the race.
Merry King ran in last year’s renewal finishing fifth off a rating of 140 and on good ground. He finished 18l behind the winner Triolo D’Alene and around 15 lengths behind Rocky Creek. Today he runs off a 2lb lower rating of 138 and is 7lbs better off with the fancied Rocky Creek. Even with that swing at the weights Merry King needs to find a few more lengths improvement and that and more will come with the ground riding soft if not heavy.
Merry King will relish today’s ground unlike last year and has run an almost identical prep race at Ascot finishing third again the same as in 2013. He is still just seven and despite not winning since November 2012 has been consistently running well in competitive staying handicap chases for trainer Jonjo O’Neill. He is a very sound jumper and with Tony McCoy taking the ride today everything is in place for a big run.
Fingal Bay is a more obvious selection especially with the Hobbs stable in such excellent form. He was considered a top novices staying hurdle if not the best until getting beaten by Lovcen at the 2012 Aintree Festival. His Chasing career started with a win at Chepstow before he found Dynaste too good over an inadequate trip at Cheltenham. That form is rock solid as Dynaste had run and won at the top level since reaching a rating as high as 169.
Fingal Bay suffered an injured tendon which required some time off the track but came back winning twice in staying hurdles last season, one of those in the Pertemps final over 3 miles at Cheltenham so stamina will not be an issue today. His best form is with give in the ground so conditions look perfect for Fingal Bay to resume his chasing career. He runs off a rating of 153 today the same as his hurdle mark and that gives him a real shout of landing this top prize under Richard ‘Dickie’ Johnson.
Selection A – 1 Point *EW Merry King Newbury 15:00 16/1 generally
Selection B –1 Point *EW Fingal Bay Newbury 15:00 8/1 generally
Best of luck,