Alan King's Barbury Castle team win the Hennessy Gold Cup with the fighting grey Smad Place
You can watch Racing UK's coverage of the final moments of Smad Place's "rout" on the Hennessy twitter feed.
The eight-year-old grey gelding Smad Place who is trained at Alan King's Barbury Castle yard, won the 59th running of the Hennessy Gold Cup Steeple Chase (Handicap) at Newbury (November 28) over three miles and two furlongs of decidely sticky ground. It was a truly convincing victory.
Owned by Mrs Peter Andrews, trained by Alan King and ridden by his stable jockey Wayne Hutchinson, Smad Place jumped fantastically from the off and won by 12 lengths over Theatre Guide.
Home by a neck in third place was First Lieutenant. The Paul Nicholls trained favourite Saphir Du Rheu and the Hennessy's 2012 winner Bobs Worth were both unplaced.
This victory on the final day of Newbury's three-day bet365 Festival was King's second recent winner in a major handicap chase - after Annacoty's win in Cheltenham's Paddy Power Gold Cup.
a car crash on the A346 near Ogbourne Downs Golf Club of one of the yard's staff, John Goggin.But the yard has had recent sadness too - with the death following
“It’s been," Alan King said after the race, "a tough week for the yard. We lost a lad in a car crash and this means a lot. Here’s to John, but it doesn’t bring him back.”
Smad Place was fifth in last year's Hennessy. His victory this year makes him the sixth grey to win the historic race in its fifty-nine years.
Alan King sketched out his future plans for Smad Place's: "He won't be entered for the Grand National, but he will have to have an entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Smad Place has his confidence back - he won't have a lot of racing this season - one run before the Cheltenham Festival - he won't go for the King George."
Hutchinson said of the ride: "He never missed a beat." He is now quoted at 16-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Smad Place had won his first outing of the season at Kempton on November 2 in a two mile and four-and-a-half furlong chase. He won by eight lengths over Fingal Bay and it was noted then that his jumping was good.
Before the race Alan King had said Smad Place was a much stronger candidate - especially after an operation to repair a trapped epiglottis. King told the Racing Post: "We've got a prep into Smad place this time, which is important, both to make sure he's fit enough and to boost his confidence. Wayne and I have been thrilled with his schooling and I'm fairly relaxed groundwise."
In Saturday's Racing Post, Stuart Riley described Smad Place as "...one of those unfortunate and overlooked souls whose reputation fails to match his CV. Third in two World Hurdles and second in an RSA chase, he seems the living proof of Bill Shankly's assertion "second is nowhere", but getting weight from several of his rivals today looks his best chance of a big success."
Smad Place can no more a saddled with that Shankly jibe - and you can be sure Mr Riley is glad he added the 'but...'.
Alan King's other entry in the Hennessy was Ned Stark - brought in at eighth place by Denis O'Regan. [Click on photos to enlarge them.]