Walkon Heads 36 for December Gold Cup
Alan King is bidding for Cheltenham compensation with Walkon in the £100,000 Grade Three Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup over two miles and five furlongs on day two of The International, Saturday, December 15.
The seven-year-old was narrowly denied major honours at Cheltenham for the second time in his accomplished career when finishing three lengths behind impressive winner Al Ferof in this month's BetVictor Gold Cup (and 12 lengths ahead of the third Nadiya De La Vega). He filled the same spot behind Zaynar in the 2009 Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle when beaten three quarters of a length.
King revealed: "Walkon came out of the Paddy Power Gold Cup well and the Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup is the plan.
"He didn't surpass my expectations at all in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. We were very pleased with him beforehand and we were expecting a big run and we got one.
"He has gone up five pounds which seems acceptable but I can't do much about that - it is a bit frustrating but you have to learn to live with it."
King has also entered lightly raced nine-year-old Bakbenscher, who returned from a 609-day absence to come home an eye-catching fifth in the Grade Three Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Chepstow in October.
King added: "Bakbenscher is unlikely to run and I have put him in there just in case. He will run this weekend over hurdles but I am still undecided where he will go at the moment."
The race is being sponsored by the Stewart family, headed by well-known businessman and racehorse owner Andy Stewart, who has enjoyed tremendous success with four-time Ladbrokes World Hurdle hero Big Buck's.
One of Andy's sons, Paul, suffered a severe spinal injury in a snowboarding accident in December, 2008, and was paralysed from the waist down. He was initially told by doctors that he would never walk again but he is embarking on a remarkable challenge next year when participating in an Ironman/Quadathalon-style event.
Nicholls has enjoyed a wonderful start to the season and could also saddle smart French import Unioniste, owned by Al Ferof's owner John Hales, and Down Royal Grade Two scorer Cristal Bonus. Lightly-raced nine-year-old The Knoxs completes his sextet.
Hunt Ball, trained by Keiran Burke, was one of the stories of last season after improving a remarkable 88lb, but he couldn't continue that progress in the Paddy Power Gold Cup when pulling up.
The talented course winner Hell's Bay could have his first start for Burke after leaving Colin Tizzard, while Nicky Henderson could be represented by last season's winner Quantitativeeasing, Nadiya De La Vega and impressive Ascot victor Roberto Goldback.
Philip Hobbs won the Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup in 2004 with Monkerhostin and has two high-class entries in Grade One-winning novice chaser Menorah and Wishfull Thinking, who triumphed by 18 lengths in the two-mile Shloer Chase at The Open on November 18.
Other notable entries are Ferdy Murphy's Divers, who won the Listed Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase at The Festival in 2011, and last weekend's stylish Ascot scorer The Rainbow Hunter, trained by Kim Bailey.
The International takes place at Cheltenham on Friday, December 14 and Saturday, December 15, and also includes the £130,000 Grade Two StanJames.com International Hurdle over two miles and a furlong. One of the most valuable hurdle races of the season, it regularly attracts the leading British and Irish hurdlers with recent scorers including Binocular, Harchibald and Rooster Booster.
THE PAUL STEWART IronSpine CHARITY CHALLENGE GOLD CUP
Class 1, Grade 3, £100,000 Total Prize Fund. 2.30pm, Cheltenham, Saturday, December 15, 2012. For 4yo+, 2m 5f. Penalties: after November 2, a winner of a chase 5lb (no penalty to increase a horse's weight above 11st 12lb). Entries closed November 27, entries revealed November 28 (36 entries), weights revealed December 5. Five-day confirmation stage December 10, final 48-hour declaration stage 10.00am, December 13. Form figures supplied by Weatherbys and are correct up to and including the racing of Monday, November 26.
Form Horse Age Owner Trainer
21021-4 ASTRACAD (FR) 6 Raymond Mould Nigel Twiston-Davies
1/531U/-5 BAKBENSCHER 9 Three Line Whip Alan King
05110-P CALGARY BAY (IRE) 9 Camilla Radford Mick Channon
216PP-4 CARRICKBOY (IRE) 8 Trevor Hemmings Venetia Williams
0/11P2-1 CRISTAL BONUS (FR) 6 Robin Geffen Paul Nicholls
03602-3 DE BOITRON (FR) 8 Mrs J Morgan & Lindsey Shaw Ferdy Murphy
3U040-0 DIVERS (FR) 8 Let's Live Racing Ferdy Murphy
2/460-13 GHIZAO (GER) 8 The Johnson & Stewart Families Paul Nicholls
313-51P GOLDEN CHIEFTAIN (IRE) 7 Brocade Racing Colin Tizzard
P/12432/- HAVE YOU SEEN ME (IRE) 9 The Maple Hurst Partnership Nigel Twiston-Davies
123F2-0 HAVINGOTASCOOBYDO (IRE) 7 D Bishop C Bowkley M Parker M Thornton Martin Keighley
23201-P HECTOR'S CHOICE (FR) 8 James and Jean Potter Richard Lee
P00P0-2 HELL'S BAY (FR) 10 A G Fear & A J Norman Keiran Burke
11113-P HUNT BALL (IRE) 7 Anthony Knott Keiran Burke
030533 IMPERIAL SHABRA (IRE) 8 Rita Shah Oliver Brady IRE
F-211FP KINGSMERE 7 Hamer & Hawkes Henry Daly
1F314-3 MENORAH (IRE) 7 Diana Whateley Philip Hobbs
0124-5P MICHEAL FLIPS (IRE) 8 M Tedham Andy Turnell
03/10-13 NADIYA DE LA VEGA (FR) 6 J P McManus Nicky Henderson
11323F- NOTUS DE LA TOUR (FR) 6 D Bradshaw, J Dale, P Deal, J Smee, W Walsh David Pipe
5U26-4P POQUELIN (FR) 9 The Stewart Family Paul Nicholls
02105-P QUANTITATIVEEASING (IRE) 7 J P McManus Nicky Henderson
P1110-3 QUINCY DES PICTONS (FR) 8 Stephen Spence Alan Jones
F/4010F- QUISCOVER FONTAINE (FR) 8 J P McManus Willie Mullins IRE
51PP-34 RENARD (FR) 7 ROA Arkle Partnership Venetia Williams
32000-1 ROBERTO GOLDBACK (IRE) 10 Simon Munir Nicky Henderson
4U1F10 ROMANESCO (FR) 7 Annie Flora Joan Bowles Gordon Elliott IRE
06050-6 TARTAK (FR) 9 Power Panels Electrical Systems Ltd Tim Vaughan
21/35/1-5 TATANIANO (FR) 8 The Stewart Family Paul Nicholls
00/015U- TATENEN (FR) 8 The Stewart Family Richard Rowe
1/15001- THE KNOXS (IRE) 9 Andrea & Graham Wylie Paul Nicholls
204-311 THE RAINBOW HUNTER 8 May We Never Be Found Out Partnership Kim Bailey
1110-2P TRIOLO D'ALENE (FR) 5 Mr & Mrs Sandy Orr Nicky Henderson
165-113 UNIONISTE (FR) 4 John Hales Paul Nicholls
1345P-2 WALKON (FR) 7 McNeill Family Alan King
6F25-21 WISHFULL THINKING 9 Diana Whateley Philip Hobbs
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