Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - The last two winners of the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, Lord Windermere and Bobs Worth, are among the 35 horses entered for the 2015 renewal of the £550,000 Grade One highlight of The Festival at Cheltenham.
Their names and 33 others are revealed today, just over two months before chasing's championship race is run over three miles and two and a half furlongs on Friday, March 13, the fourth and final day of The Festival.
Lord Windermere, trained by Jim Culloty, owned by Dr Ronan Lambe and ridden by Davy Russell, had Bobs Worth back in fifth when successful in the 2014 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
It was a thrilling finish with Lord Windermere just holding by a short-head the strong challenge of another Irish-trained horse, On His Own, from the Willie Mullins stable.
The Giant Bolster, trained near Cheltenham by David Bridgwater, stayed on strongly to be a close third, three quarters of a length in arrears, the third successive year that the Cheltenham specialist had finished in the frame in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The 11/4 second favourite Silviniaco Conti, still in the lead half-way up the run-in, was another length back in fourth, with a further two and a quarter lengths to Bobs Worth, who started 6/4 market leader, in fifth.
All five could re-oppose in the 2015 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup and the sponsors make the Paul Nicholls-trained Silviniaco Conti the 3/1 favourite following his two Grade One victories this season in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park and the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton Park.
Nicholls, who has also entered Al Ferof (33/1), Black Thunder (66/1), Sam Winner (33/1) and Unioniste (33/1), is aiming to become the joint most successful trainer of all time in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup this year. Victory would bring his tally to five in the race, the same number as Arkle's trainer Tom Dreaper achieved.
Betfred have priced Lord Windermere, unbeaten at The Festival as he also won the 2013 RSA Chase, at 12/1, with On His Own at 20/1, The Giant Bolster a 33/1 chance and the Nicky Henderson-trained Bobs Worth on 16/1.
Road To Riches is the second favourite with Betfred at 8/1, and the progressive eight-year-old, trained by Noel Meade and owned by Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud, has gained two Grade One wins in Ireland, the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal and the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.
He is one of 13 Irish-trained horses in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, with this number of Irish entries only exceeded once in the last 23 years. Betfred go 7/4 about an Irish-trained victory, while it is 5/2 that one of Nicholls' five is successful.
On His Own is one of five entries trained by Mullins - the others being Ballycasey (50/1), Boston Bob (20/1), Champagne Fever (33/1) and Djakadam (40/1).
Betfred spokesman Andrew Griffiths said: "The Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup is the pinnacle of the Jump season and we are thrilled with the quality of this year's entry.
"Silviniaco Conti has been firing on all cylinders this season and he justifiably sets the pace in the betting."
Top novice chasers usually go for the RSA Chase at The Festival (run on the second day, Wednesday, March 11) but occasionally they try for glory in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Coneygree (40/1), brother of Carruthers who finished fourth in the 2010 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, has been entered by trainer Mark Bradstock after winning both of his novice chases, a Newbury Grade Two and a Kempton Park Grade One, in good style.
Kings Palace (20/1) is also two for two over fences, both at Cheltenham, winning the Cheltenham Club Novices' Chase at The Open and the Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices' Chase at The International for trainer David Pipe who has also entered Dynaste (20/1), last year's Ryanair Chase victor at The Festival.
Sara Bradstock, assistant trainer and wife of Oxfordshire-based Mark, explained: "The intention is very much to go to the RSA. But, if everything goes to plan, we will run Coneygree in the Cotswold Chase (formerly the Argento Chase) at Cheltenham later this month (£100,000, 3m 1f 110y, January 24) because we want to have him jump around Cheltenham and run against some yardsticks to find out what we have got.
"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.
"Carruthers and Coneygree are chalk and cheese except for the fact that their strong quality is stamina. Carruthers is a delicate little flower, while Coneygree is great big and athletic.
"What made it hard for Carruthers at Gold Cup level was that he did not like the hustle and bustle of that sort of racing.
"They are not flashy work horses so we cannot say we have definitely got a Gold Cup horse here in Coneygree. This horse, to be fair, has done everything we have asked of him and more. The novices have bowed down to his gallop and fallen over.
"We have to keep him well and happy and in good form and go from there. How he runs later this month will definitely be the deciding factor and it will be very interesting to see what happens against much more experienced horses.
"He is lightly-raced but, having had time off, he is eight and has the completely mature physique, though he is lacking in experience."
Captain Christy was the last novice to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup back in 1974.
Many Clouds (16/1) gave a big boost to the Upper Lambourn stable of Oliver Sherwood when winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November and is on target for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Jonjo O'Neill, who trains not far from Cheltenham Racecourse, has entered three, the Gay Smith-owned Holywell (12/1), who is already a dual winner at The Festival, Shutthefrontdoor (20/1) for J P McManus who also has Carlingford Lough (trained by John Kiely - 33/1) entered, and Taquin Du Seuil (40/1), owned by Martin Broughton and friends, successful in the JLT Novices' Chase at The Festival in 2014.
Betfred have gone non-runner, no-bet on the Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and World Hurdle.
Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup - sponsors bet: 3 Silviniaco Conti, 8 Road To Riches, 12 Holywell, Lord Windermere, 16 Bobs Worth, Many Clouds, 20 Boston Bob, Dynaste, Kings Palace, On His Own, Shutthefrontdoor, 33 Al Ferof, Carlingford Lough, Champagne Fever, Don Cossack, First Lieutenant, Houblon des Obeaux, Ma Filleule, Morning Assembly, Sam Winner, Smad Place, The Giant Bolster, Unioniste, 40 Coneygree, Djakadam, Taquin du Seuil, 50 Ballycasey, Fingal Bay, Harry Topper, Home Farm, Spring Heeled, 66 Black Thunder, Double Ross, Theatre Guide, 200 River Choice.
¼ 1-2-3. NRNB
Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup specials - sponsors bet: 7/4 Irish-trained winner, 5/2 Paul Nicholls to train winner, 6 Ruby Walsh to ride winner, 10 A P McCoy to ride winner, Willie Mullins to train winner, 16 J P McManus to own winner.