Nicholls To Dominate Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup Again?
Denman, Kauto Star and Neptune Collonges all stood their ground at the confirmation stage for this year's totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Kauto Star (Ruby Walsh) is favoured in the ante-post market, with the sponsor offering 15/8, followed by Neptune Collonges (Christian Williams) at 5/1 and Denman (Sam Thomas) at 11/2, while Nicholls could also run My Will (Nick Scholfield) and Star De Mohaison, though the last-named is more likely to go for the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, Tuesday, March 10.
The opening race on Friday, March 13 is the £120,000 JCB Triumph Hurdle (1.30pm) and there are 35 going forward for the this four-year-old hurdling championship led by the unbeaten quartet of Master Of Arts, Zaynar, Torphichen and Starluck plus the Alan King-trained Walkon, who has won his last two races, and Irish raider Ebadiyan. A maximum of 24 runners can go to post.
The Grade One £100,000 Albert Bartlett Novices's Hurdle (2.40pm) over three miles has attracted 29 confirmations including the Alan King-trained Bensalem and the Paul Nicholls-trained Pride Of Dulcote along with two unbeaten horses, Cape Tribulation from the Malcolm Jefferson's Yorkshire stable and Mikael d'Haguenet handled by Willie Mullins in Ireland.
The Christie's Foxhunter (4pm) is run over the Gold Cup trip of three miles two and a half furlongs and there are 37 left in with the safety limit of 24. The leading fancies are Irish challenger Juveigneur and ace point-to-pointer Cappa Bleu.
The two handicap hurdles on the final day’s card of the four-day Cheltenham Festival have attracted massive interest, with 83 left in the £80,000 Vincent O'Brien Handicap Hurdle (2.05pm), which has a maximum field of 28, and150 in the new Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (4.40pm & a safety limit of 24)
The final race of the 2009 Cheltenham Festival, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual (5.15pm), a handicap chase over two miles and half a furlong, is going to be most competitive, with 32 going forward.
The going at Cheltenham is currently (Saturday):
Old Course (used on Tuesday & Wednesday) - Good to Soft, Good in places
New Course (used on Thursday & Friday) - Good to Soft, Good in places
Cross Country Course (Tuesday only) - Good to Soft, Soft in places
Simon Claisse, Cheltenham's Clerk of Course, said today: "It has been a really challenging winter, with the course covered in snow or frozen during five of last 10 weeks.
"It has now been dry for nearly three weeks apart from the half of inch of rain we had earlier this week.
"The going is currently good to soft and good in a few places on both the Old and New tracks. We are expecting a couple of mostly dry days with a few showers.
"There is rain forecast on Monday night into Tuesday morning, with up to half an inch falling. That could push us from good to soft into soft maybe.
"The grass has not really started growing yet, with the temperatures only being above six degrees in the last week. But, bearing in mind the winter we have had, the ground is not looking too bad."
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