Wayward Prince aimed at triumph in Newbury's Hennessy

By Cornelius LysaghtBBC horse racing correspondent
Wayward Prince
Wayward Prince was the leading Briton in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham

Ian Williams will break the ever-growing monopoly by high-profile trainers that hold the big Saturday jumping prizes if his Wayward Prince can take Newbury's Hennessy Gold Cup.

This season is proving harder than ever for those outside the 'big four' clique of Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, David Pipe and Donald McCain.

All except Henderson are represented in the £150,000, three-and-quarter-mile feature, and horses under their care fill the first four places in the betting.

It is after that that we find Wayward Prince, first home of the British, in third, in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and rated one of the very best novice steeplechasers last season.

Star of Williams' string, based just south of Birmingham, following the removal of Gold Cup hope Weird Al - ironically, to join McCain - Newbury has been the seven-year-old's long-term target.

"He's been trained all autumn with this in mind," said Williams. "It's a crossroads in his career. He's done well as a novice, and second-season novices are generally what to be looking out for in this race.

"I think how he runs will map out my plans for his season."

Williams clearly believes Newbury could be the start of something special for Wayward Prince, on whom increasingly impressive jockey Dougie Costello dons the mainly blue silks of owners John and Hilary Parrott.

And after the blow of seeing Weird Al switched and then win Wetherby's prestigious Charlie Hall Chase before finishing third behind Kauto Star, no less, at Haydock, few would begrudge Williams a change of fortune.

The calibre of the line-up looks decent if not brilliant for a race won twice in recent years by steeplechasing star Denman (2007, 2009) en route to Cheltenham Gold Cup heroics.

Whether there is another Denman in the field this time around is debatable, but his trainer Nicholls heads the latest weekend charge by the big four.

Two of the hottest fancies are from Nicholls HQ: Aiteen Thirtythree, pulled up in the RSA Chase, with Ruby Walsh riding, and Michel Le Bon (Noel Fehily).

Both are very much what you would describe as upwardly mobile, and, crucially, the weights allotted to them by the handicapper do not seem excessive.

Nicholls' Somerset near-neighbour Pipe attempts a rare double with Great Endeavour, successful in this month's (shorter) Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, and the horse's stamina could be an issue.

The McCain team provides Wymott, another horse that did not complete the course in the RSA Chase, but who had previously made a most favourable impression in novice chases.

They are up against the Saturday kings, but Williams and his Wayward Prince could be the ones to dethrone them.

Top Stories