Dozen on Course for Cheltenham Gold Cup
Exciting second-season chasers Bobs Worth, Silviniaco Conti and Sir Des Champs feature among 12 six-day confirmations for the £550,000 Grade One Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.20pm), highlight of Cheltenham Gold Cup Day at The Festival, Friday, March 15.
Nicky Henderson's charge made an impressive seasonal return with victory under a big weight in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury at the start of December but missed the Argento Chase at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day, January 26. He is bidding to become the first horse since Garrison Savannah in 1991 to take chasing's Blue Riband on his second start of the season.
Silviniaco Conti's only previous visit to Cheltenham yielded a third in the StanJames.com International Hurdle in December, 2010, but he has been in superb form this term, winning all three of his starts including an impressive victory in the Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November.
The seven-year-old's trainer Paul Nicholls is bidding for a record-equalling fifth success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2013 following the wins of See More Business (1999) Kauto Star (2007 & 2009) and Denman (2008). Silviniaco Conti is a 4/1 chance with Betfred to add to his handler's enviable record in the extended three and a quarter-mile contest.
Gigginstown Stud, which owns Sir Des Champs, could also be represented by last year's RSA Chase runner-up First Lieutenant (9/1), trained by Mouse Morris, and Bog Warrior (50/1), a Grade One novice chase winner for Tony Martin last season.
The Giant Bolster (16/1), runner-up in last year's contest, is also set to lay down another strong challenge. The eight-year-old warmed up for this year's race by filling the runner-up spot behind Silviniaco Conti in the Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury on February 9.
His trainer David Bridgwater commented today: "The Giant Bolster heads to The Festival in good order. You can't beat the form of last year's race and it will be an interesting contest this time around.
"I think that we have another outstanding each-way chance this year. It would be silly to say that we are going to win the Gold Cup - anyone would be delighted to be placed in the race and winning it would be a bonus."
Cheltenham winners Wayward Prince (66/1), representing owner/trainer Hillary Parrott and the Michael Scudamore-trained Monbeg Dude (66/1) complete those going forward.
Cheltenham Gold Cup Day gets underway at 1.30pm with the £120,000 Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle, which has 21 four-year-olds going forward including Cheltenham scorers Far Westand Rolling Star plus Leopardstown Grade One victor Our Conor.
At Fishers Cross, successful at Cheltenham on his latest two starts, and Ballycasey, who is unbeaten over hurdles, are among 34 entries for the £120,000 Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (2.40pm), while the 2012 winner Sasilfy heads 34 contenders for the £40,000 CGA Foxhunter Chase (4.00pm).
Fiendishly difficult handicap action looks guaranteed with 86 going forward for the £80,000 Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle (2.05pm), while the 144 confirmations for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (4.40pm) include 14 from the stable of David Pipe.
Four day's of tremendous racing action is brought to a close with the £90,000 Grade Three Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase (5.15pm), which has 49 entries remaining including the Nicky Henderson-trained sextet of Anquetta, French Opera, Kid Cassidy, Petit Robin, Tanks For That and Tetlami.
The going at Cheltenham is currently Soft on all Courses.
Frost covers have been put down today on the Old Course (racing Tuesday & Wednesday) and the vulnerable areas of the Cross Country course. They will be laid tomorrow (Sunday) on the New Course (racing Thursday & Friday).
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