Bookies fear Bob and his Worth
Bookmakers are dreading a win for Bobs Worth as ground conditions at Newbury continue to improve ahead of Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup.
Trainer Nicky Henderson had expressed some concern about the possibility of testing going for his RSA Chase winner earlier in the week but was more than satisfied with the state of the track on Tuesday afternoon.
It has been largely dry since then and bookmaker Paddy Power is worried about taking a hit on the result.
He said: "The clear 'jolly' Bobs Worth is the obvious one that we don't want winning.
"Now that the ground at Newbury is not looking too bad, the strong ante-post support looks even more discerning and unless punters bash into another horse on the day, he is by far our worst result."
Henderson himself has high hopes for Bobs Worth despite the fact he is saddled with 11st 6lb.
"It was always where we were going to start," he said.
"He stays and I think he handles soft ground.
"I'm not worried about his handicap mark as he's not going to go up sitting in his box - I don't think he's particularly well handicapped anyway.
"We do have a preference to go left-handed, so Newbury was the obvious way to go."
Henderson has a second string to his bow in ex-Irish runner Roberto Goldback, who was a nine-length winner on his debut for the yard at Ascot.
"The handicapper took a view that he had improved 13lb when he won at Ascot, and that's very nice of him, but we just don't think that is the case," he said.
"That 13lb makes it hard for him, but he stays, he jumps and he gallops."
Tidal Bay carries top weight for Paul Nicholls in the three-and-a-quarter-mile heat after returning to winning form with victory in the bet365 Gold Cup last April.
Nicholls said: "It took us a while to get him right last year but he won at Sandown very well off top weight and then he won over hurdles recently at Wetherby.
"It's not going to be easy, but he carried 11st 12lb in the bet365 race. He's a very classy horse and that counts.
"The weight doesn't worry me. We've worked out how to train him and we've got him right.
"I hope the ground is testing and I think he's got a great chance."
While drier ground will not please Nicholls, trainer David Pipe is delighted to see conditions improve for his recent Wincanton winner The Package.
"I'm pleased to see the ground is drying out as it's a positive for him to be running on better ground," said Pipe.
"He's hard to keep right, but when he is right he's good. He's in good form but he would probably need a career best to win the Hennessy."
Mouse Morris had initially been tempted to bypass Newbury with his RSA Chase second First Lieutenant but he opted to run and the ground may now be turning in his favour, too.
He said: "He's ready to rock and roll and hopefully the ground is drying out a bit and it isn't going to be too bad.
"There is nowhere else for him to go before the Lexus, so he might as well run as he's in really good fettle at the moment."
Hold On Julio is prominent in the betting and handler Alan King believes he is his best chance in the race yet.
"He's got a nice weight, should handle the ground and gets the trip well," he said.
"In short, he ticks all the boxes and I'm hopeful of a big run."
The victory of Carruthers last year was a highlight of the season for many racing fans.
Owned and bred by the sadly-missed Lord Oaksey, the nine-year-old sparked emotional scenes as he triumphed off a mark just 3lb lower than this year.
His prep run at Cheltenham did not go to plan as he finished down the field but Sara Bradstock, wife of trainer Mark and daughter of Lord Oaksey, believes he is back on top form ahead of the weekend.
She said: "He's in great form, as good a form as last year, if not better.
"It won't be easy, though, as we're near the top of the handicap and he's not a very big horse.
"He ran carrying top weight at Cheltenham last time and it was just too much for him - he's not very robust and just lacks that bit of strength for a big weight.
"He goes on soft but it looks like it will be lovely ground at Newbury, which is amazing given all the rain we have had."
Philip Hobbs hit the bar when Planet Of Sound finished just under four lengths behind Carruthers last year and he sends Duke Of Lucca this time.
He said: "I don't think the ground is too bad and he's won on soft ground before.
"You don't win anything by standing in the stables so it's worth having a go."
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