top trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies remains “bullish” about Blaklion’s chances ahead of tomorrow’s 60th renewal of the prestigious Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
Winner of Wetherby’s Towton Novices’ Chase in February before landing the Grade One RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, Blaklion appears favourably handicapped for the showpiece race over three-and-a-quarter miles won previously by legends like Arkle.
Twiston-Davies believes the horse, the mount of Ryan Hatch, will strip better following last month’s reappearance in Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase where he finished fourth to Irish Cavalier on ground which was unsuitably quick.
Twiston-Davies, who sent out King’s Road to victory in the 2000 renewal, said: “Blaklion has improved for the run at Wetherby and is in very good heart.
“He has got the right sort of profile for this because he is a second season novice. He will like the softer ground and longer trip, so it all looks good for him. I am quite bullish about it.”
The trainer also saddles Double Ross, who will be ridden by top conditional Jamie Bargary.
“He is obviously very much more exposed than Blaklion, but we are hoping he runs well,” added Twiston-Davies.
Warren Greatrex says it is all systems go for Cole Harden to make his long-awaited novice chase debut at Wetherby a week tomorrow.
The horse has winning form at the track after winning the 2014 West Yorkshire Hurdle before landing the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham the following March when leading from pillar to post under an inspired Gavin Sheehan.
Though Cole Harden has not won since that Cheltenham success, Greatrex has not lost faith in his stable star who remains one of the bravest frontrunners in the National Hunt sphere.
“He is in terrific form at the moment and his schooling has been fantastic,” said the trainer.
“The knee seems to be holding up well, which is great news. He is looking lighter than he has done in the last two seasons at this stage which can only be beneficial. He is showing real enthusiasm in his work and fingers crossed he can stay in good shape for the next week.”
Meanwhile Cole Harden’s stablemate One Track Mind, winner of the stayers’ hurdle at the Punchestown festival in April, makes his novice chase debut at Newbury today.
“Just at the back of my mind I’d like to be having a few more winners,” conceded Greatrex. “However, I’d probably say that whatever form we were in! It was a relief to finally get one on the board at Wetherby on Wednesday.”
CHAMPION Flat jockey Jim Crowley, who previously plied his trade over jumps for Sue and Harvey Smith, has succeeded Paul Hanagan as first choice rider to leading owner Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum.