The Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury is without doubt one of the most prestigious and historic races at this well known racecourse. Since its inception in 1957, the race has captured the hearts of racing enthusiasts, showcasing top-notch talent among horses, trainers, jockeys, and owners. Follow me on a journey from the early years of the Hennessy Gold Cup to the present day.
The Early Years:
The Hennessy Gold Cup was first run in 1957, named after its sponsor, Hennessy, the renowned cognac brand. The early years of the race, staged at Cheltenham until its move to Newbury in 1960, saw several distinguished winners, but it wasn't until the 1960s that the race truly started to gain widespread attention.
Horses like Mandarin and Mill House became household names, achieving consecutive victories and setting the stage for future legends.
Trainer Mark Bradstock had been left fearing the worst when he discovered a lame foot recently but, having reshod the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, his wife and assistant trainer, Sara, reported "things are looking a lot rosier".
Over the years, the Hennessy Gold Cup has attracted some of the finest staying chasers in the business. One of the most celebrated horses in the history of the race is Arkle, who claimed victory in 1964. Trained by Tom Dreaper and ridden by Pat Taaffe, Arkle's triumph showcased the brilliance that would later see him become one of the greatest steeplechasers of all time.
Another standout performer was Denman, the "Tank" as he came to be known. Trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Ruby Walsh, Denman secured back-to-back victories in 2007 and 2009. His powerful and relentless style of racing endeared him to fans, making him a true Hennessy Gold Cup legend.
Trainers play a crucial role in the success of any race, and the Hennessy Gold Cup has been a stage for some of the most accomplished trainers in the sport. Among them is Nicky Henderson, a maestro of National Hunt racing, who has tasted success in the Hennessy Gold Cup with horses like Trabolgan in 2005.
Paul Nicholls, another stalwart of the training ranks, has left an indelible mark on the race with multiple victories, including those with Denman and subsequent winners like What a Friend. His ability to prepare horses for the grueling challenges of the Hennessy Gold Cup has solidified his status as one of the premier trainers in the business.
Jockeying for Glory:
Jockeys, the fearless riders guiding these majestic horses, are an integral part of the Hennessy Gold Cup narrative. Ruby Walsh, synonymous with many great steeplechasers, has had his fair share of success in this race. His partnerships with Denman and others have etched his name in the annals of Hennessy Gold Cup history.
Other notable jockeys, such as Richard Dunwoody, AP McCoy, and Barry Geraghty, have also graced the winner's enclosure, showcasing their skills in navigating the challenging Newbury course.
The thrill of victory extends beyond the racetrack to the owners who invest time, effort, and resources into nurturing their equine athletes. Owners like Paul Barber, Harry Findlay, and The Stewart Family have experienced the sweet taste of success in the Hennessy Gold Cup, basking in the glory of their horses' triumphs.
One famous chaser that tried and failed to capture the race in 1917, the year it changed its name to the Ladbroke Trophy after its new sponsor, was Coneygree.
Coneygree had rapidly ascended the ranks of staying chasing following his remarkable surge to Cheltenham success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup back in 2015.
On just his fourth ever start over fences, the eight-year-old became the first novice in 41 years to land the showpiece of the Cheltenham Festival.
In doing so, he produced a spell-binding and courageous front running display under jockey Nico De Boinville.
The pair belittled the magnitude of the occasion, bowling along in front in the Cotswolds before gamely running up the famous Cheltenham hill to repel the challenges of Djakadam and Road To Riches in a frantic finish.
It was a run that catapulted Coneygree towards superstardom in the jumps game and, having re-emerged this season with a facile success at Sandown in early November, there is no indication that his progress would be blunted.
By lining up at Newbury, Coneygree would attempt to join an illustrious band of eight horses to have won both the Newbury and Cheltenham Gold Cup's – the most recent of which was Nicky Henderson's Bobs Worth, winner of the 2012 race before going on to achieve Cheltenham glory the following March.
by Will Palmer
The horse with which Coneygree is frequently compared is also the most recent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner to then come to Newbury and win, the great Denman.
Paul Nicholls' star landed the second of his Hennessy wins in 2009, 18 months after his epic success around Prestbury Park that so mirrored the performance of Coneygree this time around.
Like Coneygree, Denman liked to put his rivals under pressure. Jumping boldly and setting sail for home early, he dragged the opposition from their comfort zone.
With a big weight to carry for his Newbury assignment, Coneygree will attempt to do the same.
Few will be willing to write off his chances if he makes it to Newbury, where he would have the chance to once more emulate the Ditcheat destroyer, Denman.