IF YOU were to design the perfect National Hunt specimen then you would probably come up with something akin to MANY CLOUDS. The leading Hennessy Gold Cup contender has been a favourite of this blog since he hosed up in a Wetherby bumper on a bitterly cold February day in 2012.
His performance had pundits and punters scrambling for their notebooks and the way in which he galloped away from his rivals stamped him as a horse with a future. Two things stood out that day: how strongly he travelled and how visually impressive he was physically.
He was a respectable ninth in the Cheltenham bumper behind Champagne Fever and gave the impression during a promising novice hurdling career that his real future lay over fences. A good second in the EBF Final as a hurdler justified his trainer’s decision to bypass Cheltenham.
His novice chase career was ultimately a little disappointing after a promising start. Easy wins at Carlisle and Wetherby showed that galloping tracks played to his strengths and his best run was when second to RSA winner O’Faolains Boy at Ascot in what used to be the Reynoldstown Novices Chase. He was still in contention and travelling okay when he was brought down by Don Cossack in the RSA. Thankfully the horse was fine and, more importantly, he didn’t have a hard race in a contest that can often leave its mark on a nice young horse.
Many Clouds had the perfect prep race for the Hennessy when beating a small but select field at Carlisle and this half brother to The Tullow Tank really was born and built to jump fences. He has gone up 7lb for that Carlisle win and you could argue that connections might have been cannier by protecting his previous rating. But he should be spot on for Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup, he will love the galloping nature of Newbury and the ground and trip look perfect.
Trevor Hemmings loves his staying chasers and maybe he has one eye on the Grand National for Many Clouds. But I think he might just stake his claim to be a live Cheltenham Gold Cup outsider with victory in the Hennessy. If there is another Gold Cup horse in the race it could be Smad Place. He is an obvious danger and is two from two at Newbury. It is asking a lot for him to win first time out but he is a class act and should be in the mix.
Djakadam could be the handicap blot and the fact Willie Mullins is running a five-year-old in such a tough contest is a tip in itself. History and the stats are against him as no horse aged five has won the Hennessy but Rich Ricci and the Mullins yard obviously see him as a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup horse.
Towards the bottom of the handicap Midnight Prayer and Via Sundown are interesting and both could be of each-way interest. Midnight Prayer is using this as a stepping stone to the Welsh National.
Annacotty is another favourite of this site and the key to the Feltham winner is for him to bowl along in front. For a Grade One winner he is overpriced at 25/1 and could run a big race if allowed to dictate the pace.
Last year’s winner Triolo D’Alene is 8lb higher and ran very well until two out in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It is not inconceivable that he could double up in this race while Rocky Creek, Black Thunder and What A Warrior are others on the upgrade in a fiercely competitive contest.
Finally, there is Fingal Bay. You would be mad to oppose anything trained by Philip Hobbs at present and he has been exuding confidence about this classy individual who is still only eight. He goes well fresh but has not run over fences for two years and has had his training problems. However he rates the big danger to MANY CLOUDS, for whom the sky is the limit…
Who do you think will win the Hennessy?