Before the ban on tobacco advertising it was hard to imagine a sporting landscape without the Embassy World Snooker Championship, Cricket’s Benson & Hedges Cup or the Silk Cut Challenge Cup and Regal Trophy in Rugby League. However, naming rights don’t last forever, whether it is through government intervention or the decision of the company aligning itself with a particular sport to direct their commercial activities elsewhere. Not even the Hennessy Gold Cup is sacred. Earlier this month came the announcement that the long-established French Cognac firm would no longer be putting its name to one of horse racing’s blue riband events, won this year, on its 60th anniversary, by Native River, the latest NAP at SBAT to come good. The first three Hennessy Gold Cups were held at Cheltenham, from 1957 to 1959, but since then the 3 miles and two-and-a-half-furlong feature handicap has taken place further east, at Newbury racecourse in Berkshire. Jo Thornton, managing director of Moët Hennessy UK, said: “Hennessy has enjoyed 60 wonderful years of sponsoring The Hennessy Gold Cup. Over the decades, the race has been won by many extraordinary and courageous horses, jockeys and trainers. “We are enormously grateful to the directors and team at Newbury, who have always delivered racing of the highest quality, at one of the UK’s most iconic racecourses. Hennessy are proud to have worked with Newbury in creating such an important and enjoyable day in the racing calendar. We wish them every continued success.” As an independent track, Newbury is free to negotiate with whoever it wants as it begins the search for a new title sponsor. While Hennessy’s decision to pull out marks the end of an era, sponsorship change in horse racing is nothing new in recent times. The King George VI Chase, the World Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup have all been in the same position. At least Hennessy went out on a high note, Native River, the 7/2 favourite hanging on to beat the fast-finishing Carole’s Destrier (25/1) with Double Ross (50/1) a gallant third. Dominic Burke, Chairman of Newbury Racecourse said: “For anyone with even a passing interest in Jump racing, The Hennessy Gold Cup has been a race that has captured the imagination. “It has helped to identify future stars, confirmed existing champions and produced as much emotion and excitement as almost any other race in the calendar. “We are enormously grateful to several generations of the Hennessy family and the company’s management team for their wonderful support of such a special event, but everything comes to an end at some point and it is fitting that the sponsorship is drawing to a close after such a thrilling race to mark the 60th Hennessy Gold Cup as the highlight of two wonderful days of top class Jump racing last month.” Ante-post bets on next year’s Newbury Gold Cup are not yet available but speculation amongst the tipster community is rife. There’s fair chance that the latest NAP at SBAT, when the market is drawn up, will feature a Nicky Henderson trained runner. Nobody has trained as many Hennessy winners as Henderson since his breakthrough success in the great race with Trabolgan in 2005 – Bobs Worth and Triolo D’Alene scoring back-to-back successes for the stable in 2012 and 2013.
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