Talking Horses: Monbeg Genius can strike gold at Newbury

The Jonjo O’Neill-trained seven-year-old finished third in a red-hot renewal of the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival
Talking Horses: Monbeg Genius can strike gold at Newbury

GENIUS AT WORK: Monbeg Genius ticks plenty boxes for Saturday's Coral Gold Cup. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

With the meeting having survived an early-morning inspection, Monbeg Genius is fancied to land the spoils in Saturday's Coral Gold Cup at Newbury.

The race formerly known as the Hennessy no longer attracts the real top-notchers it once did but the 2023 renewal still shapes as a fascinating puzzle.

A case could be made for quite a view but Monbeg Genius is the horse with the most attractive profile.

Trained by Jonjo O’Neill, who won this race with Cloth Cap in 2020, Monbeg Genius landed three handicap chases last winter, a body of work that saw him sent off the 6-1 joint-favourite in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

His winning sequence ended there but he ran a cracker in defeat to finish a close third behind Corach Rambler and Fastorslow, the first three pulling miles clear of their rivals.

If that looked decent form at the time, it now looks positively sizzling given Corach Rambler won the Grand National at Aintree next time out while Fastorslow lowered the colours of Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Galopin Des Champs at Punchestown.

The Ultima form was further boosted last weekend when Corach Rambler ran a decent race to finish third to Royale Pagaille 24 hours before Fastorslow again got the better of Galopin Des Champs at Punchestown to put himself firmly in the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture.

Monbeg Genius made his seasonal reappearance at Ascot last month where a bad mistake at the fifth last fence proved his undoing and he was pulled up after the third last.

While obviously not the ideal preparation for this Newbury assignment, at least he has a run under his belt. The trends suggest that’s vital given nine of the last 10 Coral Cup winners had a pipe-opener before heading to Newbury.

A racing weight of 10-6 looks ideal and the O’Neill string seem to be going very well at present. Everything points to a big run so it will be a disappointment if Monbeg Genius doesn’t go very close.

If the O’Neill stable form provides cause for optimism, the same can’t be said for the John McConnell string and that’s a significant red flag for the chances of Mahler Mission, a horse who otherwise ticks plenty of boxes.

Fellow Irish raider Stumptown has struggled for form since finishing second in the Kim Muir at the Festival last March but the fine form of the Gavin Cromwell team, especially when he sends horses to Britain, means he can’t be dismissed.

Top weight Ahoy Senor has the class to run a big race if he puts it all together but his tendency to make a significant jumping error at some point makes him hard to trust.

Complete Unknown is feared more. The Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old ended last season by finishing a distant second to Gerri Colombe in an Aintree Grade One and made a winning return to action at Newton Abbot in October. A big run looks inevitable but, with even a marginal improvement on his Ultima run, Monbeg Genius must surely go close.

Elsewhere at Newbury, Under Control is hard to oppose in the Coral Bet Bundles Intermediate Handicap Hurdle. The four-year-old has won three of her four starts for Nicky Henderson while the trainer has won three of the last four renewals of this race. Both can enhance those records Saturday afternoon.

Henderson can also strike in the Coral Racing Club Handicap Hurdle where Jet Powered is fancied to make a winning start to his campaign. Dan Skelton’s Real Stone gets the vote in the Coral Get Closer To The Action Handicap Chase.


Newbury 1.40: Jet Powered 

Newbury 2.15: Under Control 

Newbury 2.50: Monbeg Genius 

Newbury 3.25: Real Stone

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