In those couple of weeks, his price has halved, and it’s something that has left the trainer rather perplexed. He said, “I’m very surprised he’s favourite. I think he’s an absurd price. Whatever he does in the Hennessy he’s is going to improve – I am not going to have him 100%. The handicapper dropped him to 145 (all of four pounds) for being off a year. We’ve done as much as we can with him. We’ll get his first run out of the way and go from there.”
King is an honest trainer, and that sounds a pretty strong warning that connections don’t expect Invictus to win. So why is he favourite?
Certainly he took to fences well, and before his first season over the bigger jumps was curtailed, he had won three of his four races. King said that tearing a shoe off during the race contributed to his one defeat at Cheltenham’s New Year meeting. It’s his last run, a win in the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot that seems to be the key to his short price for Newbury.
In that race he had the current Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bob’s Worth three lengths behind him, and Silviniaco Conti back in fourth, and both were rated considerably higher than Invictus in that race. Did they, as some have suggested, under perform that day? Or was Invictus at the point of rapid development where he had caught them up? That’s a critical assessment.
Of course, while those two have progressed hugely, and there’s no reason to think that Invictus won’t do the same, his position at the head of the market for the Hennessy takes a lot for granted in the Reynoldstown result, and assumes that Invictus can overcome an absence of over 650 days in one of the top staying handicap chases of the season. I don't share that confidence.