Confidence high with Walsh as Djakadam gets set for Newbury

Jockey Ruby Walsh.

Jockey Ruby Walsh.

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RUBY Walsh thinks Djakadam has a “favourite’s chance” of creating history by becoming the first five-year-old to win today’s Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury – a handicap previously won by turf icons like Arkle, Burrough Hill Lad and Denman.

Despite having only completed over fences three times last season, the Willie Mullins-trained French import has been backed in the past few weeks as if defeat is out of the question and William Hill spokesman Jon Ivan-Duke says he is the firm’s biggest liability.

He was overlooked by Walsh in favour of Felix Yonger on his last outing in the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in March, and was still travelling well when coming down four fences from home.

Because of the horse’s limited experience, the handicapper has struggled to know what do to with him and came up with a rating of 142, seen as lenient by some.

“We’re hoping that Djakadam is well handicapped but he hasn’t done anything to deserve a higher mark than 142,” said Walsh.

“It’s a Catch-22 situation. If he had the experience he wouldn’t have the mark he’s on now. I’m hopeful he has the class to overcome that.

“He has always shaped like a three-miler and is in good form at home.

“It’s a big ask for Djakadam – but I think he has a favourite’s chance. Others can decide the price.”

Inexperience is the only negative against Richard Johnson’s mount Fingal Bay, with trainer Philip Hobbs unperturbed about going to Newbury fresh.

“I had been thinking about getting a run into him but the ground meant that I couldn’t and then it got too close,” he said.

“As it turns out, I think it’s a bonus we haven’t run him as he’s won first time out for the past four seasons, so not having had a run won’t be an issue.”

In a high-class renewal, it would be remiss to discount Many Clouds – Oliver Sherwood’s horse won a three-runner race at Wetherby last Christmas and owner Trevor Hemmings has been bullish about the horse’s chances.

Many Clouds won his seasonal reappearance at Carlisle and Sherwood said: “He’s the right horse to go there with – whether he’s good enough is the only question. He’s a man this year, while last year he was a teenager.”

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