Our big prices tipster Tony Calvin has gone to Newbury for his regular look at the Saturday televised cards and reckons a certain football legend from the South Coast may be smiling soon after 3pm...
"Bizarrely, Loch Ba is the only horse in the line-up to have won at Newbury, when bolting up here in January in a good time, and that can’t be a bad thing."
Mick Channon hit the ripe old age of 65 on Thursday but I have inkling that Loch Ba will shelve any pension or retirement talk for a while yet by winning the Hennessy.
Back the horse win and place, at odds of 27.026/1 and 7.06/1 and better respectively.
It was a shade disappointing to see his price contract from the 40.039/1 mark in the last 24 hours, but fully understandable, and he still rates a very decent bet at the available odds. I made him more of a 17.016/1 chance.
It could be very apt that the Hennessy is scheduled to go off at 3pm on Saturday afternoon, given the trainer's past life, but there is little doubt that he has a real lively outsider on his hands in the shape of Loch Ba.
Well, I say "his" hands but of course we have to acknowledge the role that Gold Cup winning trainer Henrietta Knight still plays in the preparation and schooling of the horses that Channon sends out.
And, to be fair, Channon's assistant trainer and son, Mick Jr, was quick to point this out after their Sgt Reckless floored the 1/6 chance West Wizard at Kempton on Monday.
Knight never won a Hennessy but she sent out Lord Noelie to finish a two-and-a-half length fourth in this race in 2001 off a mark of 161 and carrying 12st, probably one of the better weight-carrying performances in the history of the race.
But multiple Group 1 wins - it should have been one more as Youmzain (I averaged 194.7 about him in Betfair's ante-post market) was scandalously denied the 2007 Arc in the stewards room - underlines that Channon Sr knows what he is doing alright, whatever the code.
And Loch Ba could be set to give him his biggest-ever jumps success, following Somersby's Haldon Gold Cup win at Exeter earlier this month. He has also been banging in winners on the Flat recently, too.
Bizarrely, Loch Ba is the only horse in the line-up to have won at Newbury, when bolting up here in January in a good time, and that can't be a bad thing.
Many would have been disappointed by the fact that he didn't win first time up at Bangor just over a fortnight ago, given that he has gone so well when fresh in the past. But it could be that they left a bit more than usual to work on there, with this valuable prize in mind.
That second place was very encouraging, anyway. He probably didn't jump as fluently as I would have liked, but I am sure Knight would have worked on that at home in the meantime, and I think he is a well-handicapped and improving seven-year-old, and one set to run a big race at big odds.
I wouldn't put anyone off backing Celestial Halo to lower the colours of At Fishers Cross in the 14:25. He goes there with plenty of stable confidence behind him, and we know how well the World Hurdle runner-up goes when fresh, and at Newbury.
But for my other bet on the card, I am giving Elenika another chance. Back him at odds of 9.08/1 or better.
I backed him when he was fifth at Cheltenham last time, and he ran well enough. But I was a touch disappointed, to be honest. He didn't travel with his normal ease and fluency throughout the whole race, and I just think he could be better suited to this flatter track, and decent ground is ideal.
I don't have any doubt that he is on a winning mark on 128 - he has been dropped 1lb from Cheltenham - and hopefully he can travel well with himself and pounce after the last.
I couldn't see much of a punting angle in the televised Newcastle races. Hey Big Spender and Vintage Star were considered in the Rehearsal Chase at 14:40, and Dan Skelton has made such an impressive start to his training career - with Harry Fry also sizzling (sorry), Paul Nicholls has obviously taught his former assistants well - that you simply cannot ignore Baile Anrai, who is blinkered for the first time. At that stage, after fancying the first three runners I looked at in a nine-runner race, I gave up.