Bobs Worth and Sir Des head Gold Cup field with Hurricane still in Champion
Published 13/02/2013 | 13:48
Bobs Worth is among 24 horses heading forward for the Betfred Gold Cup at Cheltenham on March 15.
Nicky Henderson also houses the 2011 winner Long Run, who regained his King George crown on Boxing Day, while Finian's Rainbow remains in the mix.
Another former winner, Imperial Commander, is also heading back with the aim of emulating Kauto Star by winning the most prestigious race in the game for a second time after losing the title.
Paul Nicholls enjoyed great dominance with Kauto Star and Denman but without those two his hopes rely on Silviniaco Conti and What A Friend. As expected, Tidal Bay has been taken out.
David Bridgwater is looking to saddle last year's runner-up The Giant Bolster and has also left in Wyck Hill, due to put his credentials on the line in the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton.
The Irish are looking to Sir Des Champs to give Willie Mullins a first win in the race, while Grand National favourite Prince De Beauchene is still in.
First Lieutenant and China Rock are Mouse Morris' options, while Jessies Dream and Bog Warrior are also in the mix.
Captain Chris, Katenko, Cape Tribulation and Monbeg Dude and others to note.
Flemenstar is among the 16 scratched horses along with Bold Sir Brian, Grands Crus, Hunt Ball and Sizing Europe.
Meanwhile, ante-post Hurricane Fly stands his ground as one of 22 horses left in the field for the Stan James Champion Hurdle at the latest confirmation stage.
The 2011 winner is now a hot favourite to regain his title after an unbeaten season and he is one of three entries remaining for Willie Mullins along with Thousand Stars and Zaidpour.
There were no surprises among the defections from the feature event on the opening day of next month's Cheltenham Festival, although Nicky Henderson's team has shrunk to four headed by former winner Binocular and the smart Grandouet.
His 2011 third Oscar Whisky is kept in the event as an option along with the 2010 runner-up Khyber Kim, who has returned to Seven Barrows after a spell with Nigel Twiston-Davies, but has not appeared yet this season.
Henderson lost his great hope Darlan in a fall last week, and has removed General Miller, Cash And Go and former hero Punjabi from the race.
Last year's winner Rock On Ruby is in contention, while others of interest to remain in the race are the Donald McCain trio of Cinders And Ashes, Overturn and Peddlers Cross.
Zarkandar is the only possible runner for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
Just eight possible opponents remain in contention to challenge Sprinter Sacre in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase with Flemenstar among those removed at the latest confirmation stage for the two-mile showpiece.
Nicky Henderson's Sprinter Sacre is set to go off the hottest favourite of the whole week at the Cheltenham Festival after looking invincible over fences.
Flemenstar, who was found to have a lung infection after his defeat at Leopardstown over the weekend, has been scratched from each of the events in which he was engaged.
Sprinter Sacre's stablemate Finian's Rainbow, last year's winner, now looks his most significant possible challenger along with Sizing Europe, who was second 12 months ago but took the event in 2011.
Cue Card, Sanctuaire, Realt Dubh, Somersby, Tataniano and Wishfull Thinking are the only other horses left in the race on March 13.