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.
Bobs Worth, currently 11/4 favourite with Betfred, is unbeaten in four starts at Cheltenham and has been successful at The Festival in both the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in 2011 and last year’s RSA Chase.
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 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup 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.
Like Bobs Worth, Sir Des Champs (7/2) has also struck twice at The Festival, with victories in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle in 2011 and the Jewson Novices’ Chase last term. The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old has subsequently recorded a pair of Grade One wins over fences, most recently when taking Ireland’s Hennessy Gold Cup from Flemenstar on February 9.
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 young pretenders to the chasing crown look set to face stiff opposition from seasoned performers including Bobs Worth’s stable companion Long Run (11/2), who has six Grade One victories to his name including success in the 2011 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the Philip Hobbs-trained Captain Chris (14/1), who was second to Long Run in this season’s King George VI Chase and captured the Racing Post Arkle Chase at the 2011 Festival.
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.”
Cape Tribulation (16/1), from the stable of Malcolm Jefferson, captured the Pertemps Final at The Festival in 2012 and returned to Cheltenham to take the Argento Chase on Festival Trials Day. Sunnyhillboy (33/1) was successful for Jonjo O’Neill in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase last year before going down by a nose in the John Smith’s Grand National.
Cheltenham winners Wayward Prince (66/1), representing owner/trainer Hillary Parrott and the Michael Scudamore-trained Monbeg Dude (66/1) complete those going forward.