Many Clouds after last year's triumph
CHELTENHAM Gold Cup hero Coneygree has been allotted 11 stone 9 pounds in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on November 28.
The weights for the £200,000 handicap chase over three and a quarter miles are headed by Irish star Don Cossack as 11:12, but look set to rise by three pounds with his trainer Gordon Elliott indicating that the eight-year-old is almost certain to head elsewhere.
Likely top-weight Coneygree, trained by Mark Bradstock, is the 9/2 favourite with bet365 after a 25-length victory on his seasonal debut in the Listed Future Stars Chase over three miles at Sandown Park last week.
The eight-year-old is still unbeaten over fences and will attempt to emulate fellow Gold Cup winner Denman, who defied 11st 12lb and a mammoth rating of 174 to win his second Hennessy Gold Cup in 2009, having also scored under top-weight for his first victory in 2007.
Denman's handler Paul Nicholls, the champion Jump trainer, appears to have the biggest danger to Coneygree in Saphir Du Rheu. The six-year-old made an inauspicious start over fences last season but got his act together at Aintree in April and readily dispatched The Young Master on his comeback in a two and a half mile intermediate chase at Carlisle on November 1.
Nicholls' eight entries also include RSA Chase runner-up Southfield Theatre, who was no match for Coneygree off level weights at Sandown Park, and bet365 Gold Cup victor Just A Par.
Unbeaten chaser Vroum Vroum Mag kicks off her season in a Grade Three mares' chase at Clonmel today (Thursday). She heads a five-strong team for Ireland's champion trainer Willie Mullins, alongside RSA Chase victor Don Poli and Valseur Lido, who was a dual Grade One scorer last season.
Venetia Williams’ Houblon Des Obeaux conceded weight all round when runner-up to Oliver Sherwood’s Many Clouds last year, and National winner carries 11st 4lb.
The eight-year-old returned to Newbury in February to chase home Coneygree in the Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase and ran respectably behind the same rival in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, coming sixth.
He is set to contest the Hennessy Gold Cup for the third time this year, having stayed on to finish sixth in 2013.
Other notables in the Hennessy include Cheltenham Festival winner The Druids Nephew for Neil Mullholland, Alan King’s Smad Place and Nicky Henderson’s 2012 Hennessy Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth, who won over hurdles at Aintree recently.
Saturday's meeting will be the culmination of a three-day festival of racing at the course.