Bobs Worth cemented his Cheltenham Gold Cup credentials with an impressive win in this year’s Hennessy at Newbury for local trainer Nicky Henderson.
The 2012 RSA Chase champion was making his seasonal reappearance in the Grade 3 handicap, but stayed on to beat Paul Nicholls’ top-weighted Tidal Bay by three and a quarter lengths.
Bobs Worth settled in mid-division at the start, before jockey Barry Geraghty moved his mount up into sixth position to track early leaders First Lieutenant and Fruity O’Rooney.
The seven-year-old jumped with extreme confidence in the testing conditions and was the eye-catcher when turning for home.
The 9–2 favourite steadily moved up the field before finding himself beside the long-time leader First Lieutenant.
The pair battled against each other until the last fence, when Bobs Worth kept on gamely to defeat his former Cheltenham nemesis in the final furlong, as well as the eventual second Tidal Bay.
Last year’s winner, Carruthers, tailed off after being hampered early on, while Diamond Harry, who won in 2010, fell at the 12th fence without threatening.
The well-backed Frisco Depot also disappointed after clipping the first two fences and never got into contention.
Alan King’s Hold On Julio and David Pipe’s The Package finished fourth and fifth respectively following good efforts, and look ideal candidates for next year’s Grand National.
First Lieutenant slowed down in the closing stages of the race to take third place, while Tidal Bay kept on for a strong second under jockey Ruby Walsh.
Nicholls suggested after the feature race that the Graham Wylie-owned 11-year-old will now travel to Ireland for the Lexus Chase.
In response to his Hennessy win, Bobs Worth was shortened to 7–2 favourite with Paddy Power for next year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Afterwards, Lambourn trainer Henderson was delighted with the result.
"He was the young pretender and if he is going to make it to the top level he probably did have to win," said the Seven Barrows Master, who was capturing his second Hennessy Gold Cup after Trabolgan in 2005.
"Even so, it's mighty nice to win. He was ever so impressive today and his jumping was superb.
“Earlier in the season I wasn't happy with him. Things started to fall into place and three nights ago I looked at him at evening stables and thought 'hello!'
"I'm not convinced the King George is the right race for him but he loves Cheltenham. It will just be a matter of plotting our way gently to the Gold Cup.
“We know he loves Cheltenham and we know he's going to stay so we have to go there."