Nicky Henderson sets Bobs Worth on road to Gold redemption
Nicky Henderson's vanquished 2013 Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth could begin his quest for redemption in the Bibby Financial Services Gold Cup at the Punchestown Festival.
Jim Culloty's newly crowned champion Lord Windermere has been roughed off for the season and the absence of Paul Nicholls' Aintree victor Silviniaco Conti from the 18 entries unveiled for the three-mile-one-furlong Grade One yesterday rules him out.
Still, it is shaping up to be a cracking contest, with Willie Mullins' narrow Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up On His Own likely to be joined by fellow Graham Wylie-owned stable-mate Boston Bob following his spectacular Melling Chase win.
Mouse Morris' First Lieutenant and Henderson's 2011 Gold Cup victor Long Run are also potential starters, but the presence of Bobs Worth would be a real boon for the €200,000 event, despite his lacklustre Gold Cup fifth constituting a first defeat in six Cheltenham starts.
"We have given Bobs Worth an entry and we will see nearer the race whether we go to Punchestown," the champion trainer said of his nine-year-old.
"We have actually done very little with him since his run at Cheltenham and we've got a bit of time to decide whether we bring him over. I always enjoy Punchestown and had a fantastic time there last year with Sprinter Sacre."
Henderson has also entered Aintree winner Beat That in the three-mile Grade One novices' hurdle that numbers Mullins' star Cheltenham duo Vautour and Faugheen among its 29 entries.
Vautour is likely to go for the shorter Evening Herald-sponsored equivalent over two miles and Faugheen for the longer event, meaning a potential showdown with Noel Meade's Albert Bartlett winner Very Wood.
"Very Wood definitely goes to Punchestown," Meade said.
"He did it well at Cheltenham – the favourite Briar Hill came down, but our horse stayed on well. He proved what we always thought of him – that he's a good staying hurdler – and the step up to three miles certainly helped him."
Intriguingly, Mullins has given Champagne Fever, cruelly denied by Western Warhorse in the Arkle Trophy, the option of stepping into open company in the Boylesports.com Champion Chase.
Alan King's game Aintree novice winner Balder Succes could also tackle two-mile Grade One, so it promises to be a hugely informative affair, with Henry de Bromhead's evergreen Sizing Europe and John 'Shark' Hanlon's gallant Ryanair Chase runner-up Hidden Cyclone also engaged.
The sponsors make Hidden Cyclone their 4/1 favourite, with Champagne Fever a 6/1 shot, Sizing Europe 7/1 and Balder Succes available at a point bigger again. Paddy Power have installed Bobs Worth and On His Own as 3/1 joint-favourites for the Gold Cup from Boston Bob at 7/2.