The historic Hennessy Gold Cup is one of the most prestigious prizes in Jump racing and culminates the Winter Festival at Newbury.
Last year Denman (pictured) won a vintage renewal of the stamina-sapping race under top Irish Jockey Ruby Walsh, marking Denman’s second win in the big race and this year the horse will attempt to make history with a third victory in the race.
The race is 54 years old, having first been run at Cheltenham on 16 November 1957 over 3miles 1 furlong. The winner that day was Mandarin and was worth £5,272 to the winner.
The race was first run at Newbury in 1960. Rumour has it that it moved from Cheltenham as they didn’t sell Hennessy Cognac and Newbury was the nearest course that did! The sponsorship by Hennessy is the longest running sponsorship in racing and as such the race is commonly referred to simple as ‘the Hennessy’.
The list of winners of the race reads like a who’s who in racing. Perhaps the most famous horse to have won the race is Arkle, one of only three horses to win the race twice, in 1964 and 1965 carrying a whopping 12st 7lbs in weight. Despite this weight, Arkle remains the shortest priced winner at 1/6 favourite!
The most successful trainer is Fulke Walwyn with seven wins – Mandarin (twice), Taxidermist, Mill House, Man of the West, Charlie Potheen and Diamond Edge.
In more recent times, memorable performances have come from popular greys, One Man in 1994 and Suny Bay in 1997 whose jockey Graham Bradley performed miracles to stay put after a mid-race blunder which brought horse and jockey to a virtual standstill.
Champion trainer, Paul Nicholls, has achieved the rare feat of winning the race twice as a jockey in the 1980s on board Broadheath and Playschool before going on to take the race as a trainer in 2003 with Strong Flow. Of course, Nicholls is famous for 2007 winner Denman whose impressive front-running performance under top weight was met with euphoria in the winner’s enclosure and who went on to become only the third horse to win the race a second time, in 2009.
So the big question this year is: can Denman achieve victory in this race for a record-making third time?