Henri Parry Morgan fit and in good form ahead of Newbury test
Henri Parry Morgan will bid to become only the second Welsh-trained winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday since the famous handicap was first staged almost 60 years ago.
The Peter Bowen-trained eight-year-old was on Monday night a general 12-1 chance, and connections are hopeful he can follow in the footsteps of the only previous Welsh winner - the Evan Williams-trained State Of Play, who won in 2006.
Bowen said: “I thought he was a progressive chaser at the end of last season, winning at Chepstow and Uttoxeter, before running second at Aintree behind Native River, who he'll meet again at Newbury.
“He might well have won again in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on the last day of the season as he was going as well as anything before unluckily unseating five out. We've waited for this race as it seemed the obvious place to start off.”
Bowen added: “From a fitness point of view he's as well as we can get him at home, and he has been for a racecourse gallop at Ffos Las so goes into Saturday’s race in good form. We're looking forward to it and my son Sean will again take the ride.”
However, Bowen admitted to being slightly worried should it become a slog in testing conditions, saying: “He's handled soft ground in the past but, having said that, it’s different winning lesser handicaps in testing conditions than it would be trying to win a race like the Hennessy.”
On Monday afternoon Newbury’s clerk of the course Richard Osgood eased the going on the chase course to good to soft, soft in places. The two-day meeting starts on Friday and the ground on the hurdle track was soft, good to soft in places.
He said: “We've had 16mm of rain over the last 24 hours and I'd suggest the ground will be very similar when we start off on Friday.
"The forecast is that following today's deluge the rain will ease off for the rest of the week, with a few showers, and it's due to become more settled as we get closer to the weekend.”
The possibility of a first Irish-trained winner of the Hennessy for 36 years will hinge on decisions to be made over the next couple of days by Gigginstown House Stud, owners of the three Irish entries among the 28 acceptors on Monday - Outlander, Empire Of Dirt and Wounded Warrior.
Outlander, a Grade 1-winning novice for Willie Mullins last season, fell at the last when looking set for victory in the Clonmel Oil Chase last Thursday, and Empire Of Dirt, who landed the Plate at the Cheltenham Festival in March for the recently-retired Colm Murphy, are both now trained by Gordon Elliott.
He said: "Outlander was fine after his fall at Clonmel but we haven't decided whether he'll go to Newbury. It's the same story with Empire Of Dirt; he's also in the Troytown on Sunday. He has a lot of weight in that race and we haven't decided where he'll go."
Noel Meade said of Wounded Warrior: "He's well and might go to Newbury but he's also entered at Thurles on Thursday and could go there and then to Aintree for the Becher. We're still debating it."
Bright Highway, who won in 1980 for Michael O'Brien, was Ireland's last winner of the Hennessy. Be My Royal, trained by Willie Mullins, was first home in 2002 but was later disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance.