Five of the greatest Hennessy Gold Cup winners
The Hennessy Gold Cup occupies a special place in the hearts of racing fans as one of the National Hunt season’s finest races and spread bettors will already have one eye on Saturday’s edition. A thoroughly competitive handicap chase over 3m 2 ½ f at Newbury Racecourse, it pitches second-season chasers against more established stayers and is a fantastic pointer to the Cheltenham Gold Cup over the same trip at the Cheltenham Festival the following March. Saturday’s renewal looks set to be a tremendous one with a host of high-class horses and up-and-coming charges ready to do battle. Can the ante-post favourite Djakadam defy the stats and become the first five-year-old to win the Hennessy? Can Rocky Creek go one better than last year when beaten by Triolo d’Alene or will that one etch his name into racing history by becoming only the second horse after the great Arkle to win back-to-back editions of this prestigious prize? Here are five of the greatest winners of the showpiece.
Mandarin won the first ever running of the Hennessy at Cheltenham, where it was staged for the first three years, back in 1957, and was fittingly owned by Peggy Hennessy, a founding member of the famous cognac house that sponsors the race.
Four years later, and now a ten-year-old, Mandarin proved he could win the Hennessy wherever it was run as he stormed to glory to give trainer Fulke Walwyn his third win from the first five runnings. Walwyn would end up with six Hennessy Gold Cups in his trophy cabinet and is still the leading handler in the race’s history.
The best National Hunt horse in history, a freak of nature who became known simply as ‘Himself’ in the 1960s when he was mopping up all the biggest races for trainer Tom Dreaper. In racing they say “weight stop trains” in reference to how difficult it is for horses to lump huge burdens to victory when they are facing rivals carrying far less. But that didn’t stop Arkle from winning three Cheltenham Gold Cups, a King George, an Irish National, plenty of other top-class chases and of course two Hennessys. The only horse to win successive Hennessy Gold Cups in 1964 and 1965, he carried an astonishing 12st 7lb to victory on both occasions. His incredible strength was apparently due to drinking Guinness twice a day and his Timeform rating of 212 is the highest figure ever given to a horse.
Considered one of the UK’s best horses in a glorious period for the sport in the 1960s, Mill House, like the great Flyingbolt, saw his career overshadowed by the aforementioned Arkle. The ‘Big Horse’, standing at 18 hands high, landed the Hennessy, the King George and the Gold Cup in a glorious 1963 season. He would go on to be beaten by Arkle in the 1964 Gold Cup in a hugely-anticipated clash, but there was no shame in a five-length defeat. Because of his huge size, the imposing gelding was plagued by back problems but he still finished with 16 wins, six seconds and two thirds from 34 starts.
‘The Tank’, as he was affectionately referred to throughout a magnificent career for Paul Nicholls, defied top-weight in 2007 and 2009 to book his name in Hennessy folklore. Denman won 14 of his first 15 starts, including a point-to-point win and a Grade One hurdle, but his exploits over fences will always be the achievements remembered most fondly, as he often raced against fellow great and stalemate Kauto Star. His second win, the season after he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, was his crowning moment as he galloped relentlessly under Ruby Walsh to easily see off another stablemate in What A Friend, who was receiving 22lb.
Nicky Henderson’s charge may have finished out of the frame on two of his last three starts, but a few seasons ago the diminutive horse was quite the star. Unbeaten in four starts over hurdles, including the Albert Bartlett at the Festival in 2011, he’s subsequently won five of his nine chase starts. He landed the 2012 Hennessy in superb fashion on his seasonal reappearance, beating the high-class pair of Tidal Bay and First Lieutenant, on his way to Cheltenham glory four months later. Follow @SportingIndex
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