Dual King George winner Silviniaco Conti is one of 35 entries for the Betfred Gold Cup at Cheltenham on 13 March.
Trainer Paul Nicholls has said he may send the nine-year-old straight to the blue riband event without another run in the hope it is third time lucky after he fell and finished fourth in the last two renewals of the race. Nicholls has other entries in the shape of Lexus Chase third Sam Winner, Al Ferof, likely to have options over shorter trips at the Festival, Unioniste and Black Thunder. A win for Nicholls would put him level with Arkle trainer Tom Dreaper at five successes in the great race.
Last year’s winner Lord Windermere will be aiming for a third successive victory at the meeting having also claimed the RSA Chase two seasons ago.
Bobs Worth won the race for Nicky Henderson in 2013 but was only fifth last year and finished last in the Lexus on his return this season.
Hennessy winner Many Clouds is there for Oliver Sherwood, while last year’s Irish National hero Shutthefrontdoor is among Jonjo O’Neill’s possibles, along with Holywell and Taquin Du Seuil. Last year’s narrow runner-up On His Own, as well as Boston Bob, Champagne Fever, Ballycasey and Djakadam are entered by Willie Mullins as he searches for a first win in the race.
Cue Card, Carlingford Lough, Don Cossack, Road To Riches, Dynaste, Smad Place and standing dish The Giant Bolster are others of note, while novices Kings Palace and Coneygree have been entered. Coneygree’s trainer Mark Bradstock has already stated his intention to step into full company at Cheltenham at the end of month, but the RSA Chase for novices is the Festival target.
Sara Bradstock, the handler’s wife and assistant, said: “If he won that race by miles, we would feel stupid if we had not entered him in the Gold Cup but, basically, he is being aimed at the RSA at the Festival.”
Silviniaco Conti is 3-1 favourite with the sponsors, with Noel Meade’s Lexus winner Road To Riches next best at 8-1. Betfred spokesman Andrew Griffiths said: “Silviniaco Conti has been firing on all cylinders this season and he justifiably sets the pace in the betting.”
Meanwhile, Glenquest, agonisingly beaten in the Welsh Grand National over Christmas, is among 45 entries for the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on 24 January, ahead of a possible tilt at the Scottish Grand National in April.
Having jumped the last looking the likely winner at Chepstow, Stuart Crawford’s 12-year-old was caught in the final strides and had to settle for third. “We don’t have any firm plans for Glenquest. We will probably look at one of the better staying chasers in the spring and that could be something like a Scottish or Irish National. He probably won’t be rated high enough to get in at Aintree,” said Crawford.
“Glenquest has come out of Chepstow very well. He deserves a big one as he has been second in a Troytown, fourth in a Paddy Power at Leopardstown and obviously the good run in the Welsh National. He has been knocking on the door and, although he is getting on, with a bit of luck we would be hopeful that he could pick up a nice one this season.”
Crawford has also entered Yes Tom, who ran a bold race in the Scottish National in the spring. “We will also look at the Sky Bet with Yes Tom but, whereas Glenquest will cope with most ground, he wants nice ground,” said Crawford. “The ground was quite tacky when Yes Tom ran in the Scottish National and I would say it was that rather than the trip that did not suit him.”
The sponsors have installed Paul Nicholls’ Easter Day and the Philip Hobbs-trained If In Doubt as 12-1 joint-favourites for the Sky Bet Chase. Hobbs’ Royal Player and the Nicholls duo of Just A Par and Mon Parrain also figure prominently.
Godsmejudge, Present View, Attaglance, Night In Milan, Alvarado and Hey Big Spender are among others to have the option.