Gibney targets Hennessy Gold Cup with Lion Na Bearnai


It is 29 nine years since Bright Highway was the last official winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup, but Co Meath trainer Tom Gibney could try and bridge that gap with his Irish Grand National hero Lion Na Bearnai at Newbury on Saturday.

Last Easter’s big-race hero is a general 25 to 1 outsider for the prestigious handicap but big odds didn’t stop Lion Na Bearnai score at 33 to 1 odds in the Irish National and his big-price pedigree doesn’t end there.

Before Fairyhouse the star of Gibney’s small string near Kells scored at 50 to 1 in the Grade Two Ten Up Chase at Navan in February.

Despite not having had a spin this season, Gibney is targeting another big pot and the likelihood of testing ground conditions will be no hindrance to the Irish hope.

Importantly, though, the Newbury authorities don’t envisage problems with the meeting going ahead.

The going at the Berkshire venue is currently soft, heavy in places and although some rain is forecast early in the week, drier and cooler weather is expected later on.

Clerk of the course Richard Osgood is pleased with how the track has coped with the recent wet spell.

“The amount of rain we have taken has gone through us very well,” said Osgood. “We verti-drained towards the end of October, so we’ve had very little compaction since so most of the water has gone through the holes and away.”

He added: “After Tuesday it does get a bit colder. We may get some light frost, but not heavy frost, towards the weekend. I think we will take the precautions of covering the take-offs and landings and see how the forecast develops. If we need to do more than that, we will.”

The Willie Mullins-trained Be My Royal was first past the post in the Hennessy Chase 10 years ago but was subsequently disqualified for failing a dope test.

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