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Talented trio top Gold Cup billing

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Friday's Cheltenham Gold Cup ready for dramatic showdown. Photo: Sportsfile/stock photo

Friday's Cheltenham Gold Cup ready for dramatic showdown. Photo: Sportsfile/stock photo

Sportsfile

Friday's Cheltenham Gold Cup ready for dramatic showdown. Photo: Sportsfile/stock photo

Cue Card and Native River head a list of 14 contenders for Friday's Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, the feature event on the final day of the festival.

The pair, who are both trained by Colin Tizzard, have been battling it out at the head of the market after Cue Card emerged an impressive winner of the Ascot Chase last time.

Native River added to his Hennessy and Welsh National successes when winning his prep race in the Denman Chase at Newbury.

Willie Mullins' Djakadam, who has finished second in the last two Gold Cups, is also at the head of the market with the Tizzard pair and he is one of five Irish-trained contenders.

Gordon Elliott was forced to rule Don Poli out on Friday but he still has Outlander and Empire Of Dirt in the mix.

Jessica Harrington's Sizing John and the Henry de Bromhead-trained Champagne West are other leading Irish hopes.

Paul Nicholls, who has won the race four times, relies upon outsider Saphir Du Rheu and while stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies is pleased to take the ride, he rates Djakadam as the horse he would most like to partner.

"We have Saphir Du Rheu, but with the top three, they could be very hard to beat," he said. "I ride Saphir Du Rheu but if [I wasn't], I would like to be on Djakadam.

"He's been there before, his form is rock-solid and he's been freshened up for the race. There's a lot to like about him."

The rider's father, Nigel Twiston-Davies, won the race with Imperial Commander in 2010 and has Bristol De Mai in contention this time.

Jonjo O'Neill is doubly represented with Minella Rocco and More Of That, while the list of hopefuls is completed by Irish Cavalier, Smad Place and Tea For Two.

Meanwhile, Finian's Oscar has been ruled out of the festival due to a minor setback.

The five-year-old was among the leading lights for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle after winning each of his three hurdles starts this term, including the Grade One Tolworth at Sandown in January.

However, trainer Colin Tizzard reports his charge to be suffering from a small issue which will see him miss out next week, although he is hoping Finian's Oscar will be ready to run at Aintree next month.

Tizzard said: "Unfortunately Finian's Oscar will miss Cheltenham due to a minor setback. It's only a minor issue and all being well he will run at Aintree."

Sunday Indo Sport