Bobs Worth on track to defend Gold crown but last instalment team wait on ground
Bobs Worth will take on 13 rivals in his defence of the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup tomorrow.
Nicky Henderson's gifted nine-year-old won the highlight of the Festival by seven lengths last season and returns to the Cotswolds on top of his form.
Barry Geraghty's companion banished memories of a subdued return at Haydock in November with a ruthless display in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown a month later. Runner-up that day was First Lieutenant, which finished second in last season's Ryanair Chase and returns to Cheltenham for trainer Mouse Morris and owners Gigginstown House Stud.
Gigginstown and trainer Philip Fenton have also declared Irish Hennessy winner Last Instalment, whose participation could be dependent upon how fast the ground will be at Cheltenham. Henderson has a worthy second Gold Cup contender in Triolo D'Alene, which looked the real deal when winning the Hennessy at Newbury on his last outing in November. He will be partnered by Tony McCoy.
Paul Nicholls saddles King George VI Chase winner Silviniaco Conti, which had travelled smoothly throughout the race last year before he fell three from home.
Irish interest is further spiked by the presence of On His Own, which was supplemented for the Gold Cup by trainer Willie Mullins and owner Graham Wylie, Lord Windermere and Lyreen Legend.
Cheltenham specialist The Giant Bolster goes to the well for the David Bridgwater team. Teaforthree, the ante-post favourite for the Grand National, warms up for Aintree at the top table, while Venetia Williams gives Houblon Des Obeaux and Katenko the chance to shine.
Yorkshire hopes pivot around The Sue Smith-trained Cloudy Too, runner-up to Captain Chris, which misses the Gold Cup due to injury, at Ascot last month and the field is completed by Knockara Beau, which claimed the scalp of Big Buck's on his penultimate start in the Cleeve Hurdle.
Kim Bailey has withdrawn Harry Topper due to the prospect of drying conditions. He is instead likely to run in the Betfred Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter on Saturday. Officials at the track yesterday confirmed they would be watering overnight.
Clerk of the course Simon Claisse and his team have decided to put water on the track in an effort to maintain the ground at good, good to soft in places.