Henderson has strong hand for Gold Cup
RACING:Bobs Worth, Long Run and Flemenstar feature among the 40 entries for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 15th.
Nicky Henderson has a particularly strong hand, headed by ante-post favourite and Hennessy Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth, who is unbeaten in four starts at Cheltenham and has won at the last two festivals.
The Seven Barrows handler is also set to saddle 2011 Gold Cup hero Long Run, last seen regaining his crown in a thrilling King George VI Chase.
Last season’s Champion Chase victor Finian’s Rainbow is also in the mix for Henderson along with Ryanair winner Riverside Theatre and Roberto Goldback.
Although without stable stalwarts Kauto Star and Denman this term, Paul Nicholls will almost certainly be strongly represented. Charlie Hall and Betfair Chase winner Silviniaco Conti, Lexus Chase scorer Tidal Bay, Kauto Stone and What A Friend are a formidable quartet for the champion trainer.
There are 12 Irish-trained entries including Willie Mullins’ Sir Des Champs and Peter Casey’s Flemenstar.
The latter’s festival target is likely to be determined by a second run over three miles in next month’s Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
Owner Stephen Curran said: “He’s in great order, but we will make plans for Cheltenham much closer to the time. He’ll be entered in the Queen Mother, the Ryanair Chase and the Gold Cup, but we are just concentrating on the Hennessy.
“Cheltenham is two months away and you wouldn’t know what was going on with the ground by then.”
The Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival is a potential long-term target for China Rock following his pleasing return to action in the Lexus Chase.
Having seemingly failed to get home over three miles on a number of occasions, the 10-year-old was fitted with a tongue-tie for last season’s Punchestown Gold Cup and it worked the oracle as he ran out a comfortable winner.
Mouse Morris’ charge missed the first part of the new campaign after suffering a setback and returned in the Lexus, but after travelling powerfully into the home straight, he weakened to finish fifth.
Morris remains unsure whether his charge truly stays three miles and is keen to find out definitively by running in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 19th.
He could then come back in distance for the two-mile-five-furlong Ryanair. “He ran a good race the other day, but he didn’t get home. We’ll run him in the Hennessy next and see where we go after that,” said Morris.
“He might be a horse for the Ryanair or Punchestown again later on. He’s had a run now, so we’ll see how he gets on next time.”
Captain Cee Bee is likely to meet Hurricane Fly for the third time this season in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on January 27th.
Although perhaps not the force he once was, the 12-year-old appears to have been revitalised by a return to the smaller obstacles and recorded an impressive victory at Tipperary in October.
He has since chased Hurricane Fly’s shadow in both the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown and the Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown, but has picked up minor money on both occasions and trainer Eddie Harty is happy to continue down the same route with his veteran.
“He came out of the race in good form and we were delighted with the way he ran,” said Harty.