Pendleton poised to tackle Foxhunter after Wincanton win
Reigning champion hunter chaser On The Fringe is among a strong Irish contingent unveiled for the remaining four Cheltenham Festival races.
Enda Bolger's 2015 Foxhunter hero was one of 11 raiders among a total entry of 41 for the amateur riders' Gold Cup.
Now likely to be in the line-up alongside the 11-year-old will be former British Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton, after she guided Paul Nicholls' Pacha Du Polder to victory at Wincanton yesterday.
Pendleton has been taking part in a "switching saddles" initiative backed by the Betfair.
On her recent chase debut at Fakenham, she suffered an ignominious exit, getting unseated at the first fence that she took alongside other runners, having initially hunted around at the rear.
Yesterday, in a race that saw four fences omitted due to high winds leaving just 13 to be jumped, Pendleton ensured there would be no repeat of that by making all on the 5/4 favourite for a facile victory, a year after first sitting on a horse. A final decision on her Foxhunter participation is expected to be made by her panel of expert consultants this weekend.
Of the 32 Weatherbys Champion Bumper entries, 14 are Irish-based.
The 8/1 favourite Augusta Kate is one of 10 that Willie Mullins could run in the Grade One, while the champion trainer's exciting Limini is one of five that he can choose from in the inaugural Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle.
Limini heads the betting for the Grade Two at a best-priced 10/11, with 12 of the 36 entries hailing from these shores.
Bolger's Josies Orders is favourite for the cross-country race. Tony Martin's 2015 winner Rivage D'Or is also among a 15-strong Irish contingent, with 25 engaged in total.
Meanwhile, jockey Gavin Faulkner, who tried to resurrect his career in Ireland after nearly 10 years off following a previous brush with authority, has been banned for two years by the Turf Club after testing positive for a metabolite of cocaine at the Curragh last August.
Amateur rider Mikey O'Connor has also been suspended for three months after testing positive for a beta-blocker at Punchestown in November. The positive test arose from medication that O'Connor had been prescribed for a heart condition.