Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup
|Grade 1, Cheltenham 15:20
3m 2f 110y, Class 1
|Friday 13th March 2015|
Oliver Sherwood believes Many Clouds can improve again ahead of his date with destiny in the Betfred Gold Cup in March.
Making his first appearance since his popular triumph in the Hennessy at Newbury in late November, the eight-year-old proved his worth in the BetBright Cup Chase at Cheltenham with a determined victory in the hands of Leighton Aspell.
Sherwood admits he would prefer similarly testing conditions in the blue riband, but is not unduly concerned about the prospect of better ground.
He said: "I was very impressed with him. He's improved since the Hennessy and who is to say he's not going to improve again? Confidence is sky high with him at the moment, which is very important.
"I'm 99.9 per cent certain Many Clouds knows he's done good, he knows that he's won and he thinks he's King Kong at the moment!
"I still think we've got a bit to improve to warrant taking on or beating Silviniaco Conti. He's got to prove it around Cheltenham and if you take him out of the race, it is a very open Gold Cup."
The 10-year-old has finished second, fourth and third respectively in the last three renewals of the blue riband, last year beaten just three-quarters of a length in a pulsating finish.
Lord Windermere, trained by Jim Culloty, owned by Dr Ronan Lambe and ridden by Davy Russell, had Bobs Worth back in fifth when successful in the 2014 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
It was a thrilling finish with Lord Windermere just holding by a short-head the strong challenge of another Irish-trained horse, On His Own, from the Willie Mullins stable.
The 11/4 second favourite Silviniaco Conti, still in the lead half-way up the run-in, was another length back in fourth, with a further two and a quarter lengths to Bobs Worth, who started 6/4 market leader, in fifth.
All five could re-oppose in the 2015 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup and the sponsors make the Paul Nicholls-trained Silviniaco Conti the favourite following his two Grade One victories this season in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park and the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton Park.
Sam Winner will head straight for Cheltenham without the aid of another run.
Nicholls' eight-year-old has come alive over fences this term, with big-race victories at Cheltenham and Aintree backed up by a pleasing third in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.
And with four Cheltenham victories already in safe-keeping, owner Angela Yeoman hopes Sam Winner's prowess at the track will again serve him well in the big one on March 13.
She said: "He will not run before Cheltenham but I've absolutely no idea who will ride him in the Gold Cup - that's for Paul to work out.
Nicholls, who has also entered Al Ferof, Black Thunder and Unioniste, is aiming to become the joint most successful trainer of all time in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup this year. Victory would bring his tally to five in the race, the same number as Arkle's trainer Tom Dreaper achieved.
Road To Riches is the second favourite with Betfred, and the progressive eight-year-old, trained by Noel Meade and owned by Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud, has gained two Grade One wins in Ireland, the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal and the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.
"He's going straight to Cheltenham. He's going to have an easy January and we'll start building him up again," Meade told At The Races.
He is one of 13 Irish-trained horses in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, with this number of Irish entries only exceeded once in the last 23 years.
On His Own is one of five entries trained by Mullins - the others being Ballycasey, Boston Bob, Champagne Fever and Djakadam, who sauntered to victory in the Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase at Gowran Park on January 22.
Betfred spokesman Andrew Griffiths said: "The Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup is the pinnacle of the Jump season and we are thrilled with the quality of this year's entry.
"Silviniaco Conti has been firing on all cylinders this season and he justifiably sets the pace in the betting."
Top novice chasers usually go for the RSA Chase at The Festival (run on the second day, Wednesday, March 11) but occasionally they try for glory in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Kings Palace is also two for two over fences, both at Cheltenham, winning the Cheltenham Club Novices' Chase at The Open and the Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices' Chase at The International for trainer David Pipe who has also entered Dynaste, last year's Ryanair Chase victor at The Festival.
Jonjo O'Neill, who trains not far from Cheltenham Racecourse, has entered three, the Gay Smith-owned Holywell, who is already a dual winner at The Festival, Shutthefrontdoor for J P McManus who also has Carlingford Lough (trained by John Kiely) entered, and Taquin Du Seuil, owned by Martin Broughton and friends, successful in the JLT Novices' Chase at The Festival in 2014.
Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1)
£550,000 added, 5yo plus, 3m 2f 110y, Class 1
|AL FEROF (FR)||10||John Hales||Paul Nicholls|
|BALLYCASEY (IRE)||8||Susannah Ricci||Willie Mullins IRE|
|BLACK THUNDER (FR)||8||Donlon, MacDonald, Fulton & Webb||Paul Nicholls|
|BOBS WORTH (IRE)||10||The Not Afraid Partnership||Nicky Henderson|
|BOSTON BOB (IRE)||10||Andrea & Graham Wylie||Willie Mullins IRE|
|CARLINGFORD LOUGH (IRE)||9||J P McManus||John Kiely IRE|
|CHAMPAGNE FEVER (IRE)||8||Susannah Ricci||Willie Mullins IRE|
|CONEYGREE||8||The Max Partnership||Mark Bradstock|
|DJAKADAM (FR)||6||Susannah Ricci||Willie Mullins IRE|
|DON COSSACK (GER)||8||Gigginstown House Stud||Gordon Elliott IRE|
|DOUBLE ROSS (IRE)||9||Options O Syndicate||Nigel Twiston-Davies|
|DYNASTE (FR)||9||John White||David Pipe|
|FINGAL BAY (IRE)||9||Carol Skan||Philip Hobbs|
|FIRST LIEUTENANT (IRE)||10||Gigginstown House Stud||Mouse Morris IRE|
|HARRY TOPPER||8||A N Solomons||Kim Bailey|
|HOLYWELL (IRE)||8||Gay Smith||Jonjo O'Neill|
|HOME FARM (IRE)||8||Chris Jones||Henry de Bromhead IRE|
|HOUBLON DES OBEAUX (FR)||8||Mrs Julian Blackwell||Venetia Williams|
|KINGS PALACE (IRE)||7||Drew, George & Johnson Family||David Pipe|
|LORD WINDERMERE (IRE)||9||Dr Ronan Lambe||Jim Culloty IRE|
|MA FILLEULE (FR)||7||Simon Munir||Nicky Henderson|
|MANY CLOUDS (IRE)||8||Trevor Hemmings||Oliver Sherwood|
|MORNING ASSEMBLY (IRE)||8||DOUBTFULL||Pat Fahy IRE|
|ON HIS OWN (IRE)||11||Andrea & Graham Wylie||Willie Mullins IRE|
|RIVER CHOICE (FR)||12||Fergus Wilson||Richard Chotard FR|
|ROAD TO RICHES (IRE)||8||Gigginstown House Stud||Noel Meade IRE|
|SAM WINNER (FR)||8||Angela Yeoman||Paul Nicholls|
|SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR (IRE)||8||J P McManus||Jonjo O'Neill|
|SILVINIACO CONTI (FR)||9||Chris Giles & Potensis Bloodstock Ltd||Paul Nicholls|
|SMAD PLACE (FR)||8||Mrs Peter Andrews||Alan King|
|SPRING HEELED (IRE)||8||Dr Ronan Lambe||Jim Culloty IRE|
|TAQUIN DU SEUIL (FR)||8||Martin Broughton & Friends 1||Jonjo O'Neill|
|THEATRE GUIDE (IRE)||8||Jean Bishop||Colin Tizzard|
|THE GIANT BOLSTER||10||Simon Hunt & Gary Lambton||David Bridgwater|
|UNIONISTE (FR)||7||John Hales||Paul Nicholls|