Not since the dominant days of Denman has Newbury Racecourse witnessed a Hennessy Gold Cup performance worthy of Gold Cup hyperbole, yet Nicky Henderson and his young pretender, Bob's Worth, may just have ignited renewed dreams of Cheltenham Gold Cup victory after a dominant display in taking the 2012 renewal. Having been concerned by the possibility of heavy ground conditions caused by the non-stop deluge precipitation in the southern areas of England throughout November, Nicky Henderson had opted to walk the entire Newbury Racecourse on Tuesday morning prior to declaring his seven year old son of Bob Back as a definite runner in the Hennessy Gold Cup.
With the uncertain British weather playing an ever present role within the National Hunt season, further alterations in ground conditions were to occur with temperatures below the point of freezing playing a prominent hand throughout the course of both Thursday and Friday evenings. However, Newbury Racecourse's decision to cover the entire course, a task which took the course a matter of eighty minutes to complete, proved a superb move providing the course with perfect soft ground conditions for Saturday's main event.
With a talented field of twenty two runners entered for this year's renewal of the Hennessy Gold Cup, it was the Irish invader, First Lieutenant who took things up at the head of affairs alongside previous winner, Diamond Harry, and Gary Moore's handicap stalwart, Fruit O' Rooney. Jumping with exuberance and intelligence in front of the stands, the talented First Lieutenant looked to be jumping for fun and thriving towards every jump.
As the runners began on their second circuit of their task, may rivals began to struggle with the increase in pace beginning to separate the men from the boys. Having lost Alfie Spinner to a jumping error early on, the likes of Saint Are and Diamond Harry were also seen to commit jumping errors whilst Nicky Henderson's second string, Roberto Goldback, was to unseat Jeremiah McGrath at the fourteenth fence.
Heading around towards the cross fence and towards the final stages of their task, First Lieutenant continued to lead under a confident looking Bryan Cooper, yet the ominous sign of a comfortably moving Bob's Worth under Barry Geraghty was beginning to scythe through the pack, reeling his rivals in one by one. With distress signs beginning to emanate from Cooper aboard First Lieutenant as the runners came towards the final fence, Bob's Worth ranged alongside his Irish rival, producing a superb leap over the last to land in front.
As First Lieutenant seemingly struggled to handle the final stages of the three-and-a-quarter mile event, Paul Nicholls' Tidal Bay would quickly pass the Irish raider into second and take dead aim on Henderson's Bob's Worth up the run in towards the finishing line. However, the superiority that Bob's Worth held, and the distance that Bob's Worth had built up over his rival from the last fence, was enough to ensure Henderson and Bob's Worth would land the contest and ignite the belief that Henderson's charge could prove to be a huge challenger to Gold Cup glory in March.
"All he wants to do is please us" said Henderson, "He's not a Sprinter Sacre that wants to show off. He jumps quietly around there, he's hunting in the middle of the field, he's not running away but he's not hard on the bridle either. You wouldn't notice him in the middle of the race. The good thing is, suddenly, at the second-last, boom, hello Bob and here we are again"
Bob's Worth, previously owned by his jockey, Barry Geraghty, was sold privately to Henderson by his stable jockey after he failed to sell at the 2008 Goffs Land Rover Sale in Ireland. Slow to come to hand this season, Henderson admitted that Bob's Worth had blossomed on the eve of the Hennessy Gold Cup, a moment that pleasantly surprised his trainer. "Everything was just starting to fall into place and suddenly three nights ago I looked at him, during evening stables, and thought 'Hello'. It was like watching a rose come out"
A two-time Cheltesnham Festival winner, and unbeaten in four visits to Cheltenham, Bob's Worth brings excitement to the Seven Barrows yard just seven days after the disappointing defeat of their 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Long Run, at the hands of Paul Nicholls' Silviniaco Conti. Now favoured for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, Bob's Worth looks to make his final preparation for the race in the Argento Chase, a race which forms part of the Cheltenham Festival Trials Day on 26th January 2013.
Photo Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)