Don Cossack heads the weights for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on November 28th.
Gordon Elliott's brilliant chaser has been allotted 11st 12lb for the prestigious handicap, but appears unlikely to make the journey to Berkshire, meaning the weights are set to rise 3lb. Should Don Cossack defect as anticipated, Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Coneygree, currently on 11st 9lb, would move to the top of the pile.
Mark Bradstock’s eight-year-old could not have been more impressive on his seasonal reappearance at Sandown last summer and will bid to emulate fellow Gold Cup winner Denman, who won the Hennessy under top-weight in 2007 and 2009.
has a strong hand for this year’s renewal, headed by Saphir Du Rheu (11st), who looked the part on his recent Carlisle return.
The champion trainer’s eight entries also include RSA Chase runner-up Southfield Theatre (10st 5lb), who was no match for Coneygree off level weights at Sandown, and bet365 Gold Cup victor Just A Par (9st 13lb).
Vroum Vroum Mag (10st 5lb), who makes her seasonal bow at Clonmel on Thursday, heads a five-strong team in contention for Willie Mullins, alongside RSA Chase victor Don Poli (11st) and Valseur Lido (10st 8lb), who was a dual Grade One scorer last season.
Houblon Des Obeaux conceded weight all round when runner-up to subsequent Grand National hero Many Clouds in last year’s Hennessy, but is currently on just 10st 7lb for this year’s renewal.
The Venetia Williams-trained eight-year-old was unable to land a blow under top-weight on his comeback run at Ascot last month.
Williams said: “The plan is to go for the Hennessy Gold Cup again with Houblon Des Obeaux and he looks set to carry a bit less weight than what he is used to.
“I don’t think the weight affected him too much on his seasonal reappearance at Ascot, but the ground wasn’t really what he wants as it was a bit quick.
“He prefers it softer as when there is more give it just slows down the pace which suits him. He always seems to run well at Newbury.
“I don’t think my other entry Saroque (8st 11lb) will run as he is unlikely to be in the handicap and I would want him to be in the handicap to run.”
Other notable Hennessy contenders include Cheltenham Festival victor The Druids Nephew (Neil Mulholland, 10st 7lb), Smad Place (Alan King, 10st 6lb) and 2012 Hennessy Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth (Nicky Henderson, 10st 4lb) who won over hurdles at Aintree last Saturday.