Hennessy Gold Cup: Can warrior Bobs Worth win on Saturday?

By Cornelius LysaghtBBC horse racing correspondent
Bobs Worth clears the last hurdle at the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Bobs Worth clears the last hurdle at the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup

Cue Card. Bobs Worth. Sprinter Sacre. Sir Des Champs. Cue Card again.

With some of the sport's former star names making dramatic comebacks from lengthy spells in the wilderness, the core section of the all-year-round jumps season could hardly have got off to a better start.

As autumn turns to winter, it's been heart-warming to see former warriors not so long ago dismissed as has-beens battling their way back to the winners' circles that once they'd made their own.

Supporters have been almost literally dancing around for joy, at the same time debating hard which return has quickened the pulse most spectacularly.

Perhaps it was the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth finding his form again, in a hurdle race, at Aintree, 22 months after his previous success.

Bobs Worth crosses the line to win the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Bobs Worth crosses the line to win the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup

Or that year's talented Gold Cup runner-up Sir Des Champs sweeping aside long-term injury with a storming run up the home straight to win what was his first race of any sort for nearly two years, at Thurles in Ireland.

Others, meanwhile, were left almost dizzy with admiration at the vintage display by one-time heart patient Sprinter Sacre - trained like Bobs Worth by Nicky Henderson - when recording a first victory since April 2013, at Cheltenham.

And Cue Card added further to his already bulging fan-base when tearing apart a field of quality opponents at Haydock just as he had a month earlier at Wetherby. Prior to that there'd been two pretty much barren years.

Now Bobs Worth is fancied to further enhance jumping's prevailing feel-good factor in the 59th Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, for which he has a seemingly attractive position in the handicap.

The 10 year old, successful in 2012 and attempting to become only the fourth dual-winner - after race-greats Mandarin (1957 and 61), Arkle (1964-65) and Denman (2007 and 09) - has come tumbling down the weights since his glory days.

Trainer Henderson, based closed to Newbury in Berkshire's Lambourn racing centre, has taken the £200,000 season's highlight at his local track three times.

He told BBC Sport: "It's been great that the public have appreciated seeing Bob back and Sprinter as well because we've had some brutal times trying to do it.

Trainer Nicky Henderson with Bob's Worth (left)
Trainer Nicky Henderson says it's been "brutal" getting Bobs Worth back to winning ways

"There's had to be a lot of soul-searching and worrying, and if Bobs Worth had told us that enough was enough we would have agreed with him, but's not indicating that at the moment so on we go."

With last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree declared a non-runner by his trainer Mark Bradstock after a below-par jumping session, 17 hopefuls are due to face the three-and-a-quarter-mile challenge.

Coneygree's regular jockey Nico de Boinville, long a significant part of the set-up at Henderson HQ, takes the mount on Bobs Worth, who's second favourite behind the Paul Nicholls-trained six year old Saphir Du Rheu.

"Saphir Du Rheu is a class horse and the youngster on the way up," Henderson said, "and we are the old one hopefully not on the way down.

"What's happened recently has helped his weight a little bit, and though I'm worried about the [rain-softened] ground he handled it fine at Aintree, and anyway it slows the whole thing down which probably helps him.

"After everything, it would be ridiculously special for him to win this race again."

The Hennessy Gold Cup is on Sat 28 Nov at 15:00 GMT; coverage on BBC 5 live.

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