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The Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury is the early season highlight of the jumping season. In the best traditions of the race Saturday’s renewal will see young pretenders to the highest rank of staying chasers taking on battle-scarred handicappers. The younger set hold the trumps and it is best to side with one of their number. Only one horse older than eight has scored in the last ten years.

The key to this year’s Hennessy may be last year’s Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham festival. The three horses at the top of the betting fought out that contest in March: Trabolgan; Comply or Die; and Cornish Rebel. Trabolgan won and heads the market again today. At 4/1 he is short enough but holds a favourite chance. The worry for him is his welterweight, but if he is to be a realistic contender for the Gold Cup he has to go close.

At the odds available a better bet is French raider L’Ami. He was a neck fourth to the big three in the market and off revised weights has a good chance to reverse the form. No one has a better record at burgling big British pots than his canny trainer François Doumen. This horse is only six, like the last two winners and is entitled to improve.

L’Ami will be spot on after two spins round Auteuil in heavy ground and won on his third outing last season. The best of the rest may be King Harald. He looked in need of the run when falling to another Doumen tourist, Innox, at the Paddy Power meeting a fortnight ago.

Whether or not Trabolgan does the business in the big race it could be a rewarding afternoon for trainer Nicky Henderson. Royal Katidoki has an excellent chance to win on his first try over fences. His form over hurdles tailed-off last year, a bad one for the stable, but his second on debut to subsequent Triumph Hurdle winner Made In Japan is eye-catching. In the two-mile handicap that follows, Non So has a shout.

Last year’s top staying hurdlers do battle in the Ballymore Properties Long Distance Hurdle and it is hard to see the eleven-year old Baracouda reversing Cheltenham form with the six-year old Inglis Drever.

Selections

1:05 Newbury Royal Katidoki (win)

2:05 Newbury Inglis Drever (win)

2:40 Newbury L’Ami (each-way)

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