Defending champion Sizing John & King George hero Might Bite head Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup entries


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Wednesday, January 10, 2018 - The countdown to The Festival begins in earnest today with the unveiling of the entries for the highlight of the four-day spectacular, the G1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday, March 16.
The three and a quarter mile showpiece, which carries record prize money of £625,000 in 2018, has attracted 38 entries this year, with a joint record high of 18 trained in Ireland.
Reigning Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, eight-year-old Sizing John (Jessica Harrington IRE), and the talented Might Bite (Nicky Henderson), winner of last year’s RSA Chase at The Festival, are the star names among the entries following contrasting displays over Christmas.
Sizing John fluffed his lines in the G1 Leopardstown Christmas Chase won by Road To Respect (Noel Meade IRE), finishing down the field in seventh, while Might Bite overcame Double Shuffle (Tom George) by a length in the G1 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton Park.
Sizing John is bidding to become the first horse to win back-to-back Cheltenham Gold Cups since Best Mate (2002, 2003 & 2004).
Coney Island (Eddie Harty IRE) missed the Christmas action in favour of a graduation chase at Ascot on December 23, having not raced for just shy of a year, and justified the decision with an impressive nine-length victory over Adrien Du Pont.
The lightly-raced seven-year-old had three starts over fences in his novice season before injury intervened, headlined by a decisive victory over Anibale Fly (Tony Martin IRE) in the G1 Drinmore Novices’ Chase over two and a half miles at Fairyhouse in December, 2016.
Arguably, his best performance came later that month over a half a mile further when going down by a half-length to Our Duke (Jessica Harrington IRE) in the G1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
Trainer Eddie Harty said: “I was delighted with Coney Island at Ascot. He has come out of it fit and well, and is ready to go again.
“He has been entered for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase, and will also have entries in the Irish Gold Cup on February 4 and the Ascot Chase a fortnight later.
“We will go for one of those two and then make a decision about which race to aim for at Cheltenham after that.
“I think the Gold Cup picture looks as much as it did before Christmas. Might Bite did nothing wrong, Sizing John did, but that might have been down to the proximity of his prep race, and nothing else really came to the fore. My fella has shortened up in the betting after Ascot, but it was only a graduation chase. Touch wood and all being well, we will be able to decide where we are going after his prep run.
“I don’t have any concerns about his stamina, but it would have been stupid not to put him in the Gold Cup and the Ryanair as we are still nine weeks out from Cheltenham and can finalise plans nearer the time.”
As well as Might Bite, Nicky Henderson, seeking his third Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup success after Long Run (2011) and Bobs Worth (2013) also has entered Whisper, beaten a nose by his stable companion in the 2017 RSA Chase at The Festival and an excellent neck second in the Ladbrokes Trophy when giving a stone to Total Recall(Willie Mullins IRE) at Newbury in early December.
Irish-trained horses have won three of the last four runnings of the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup and Ireland’s hand is strengthened further by a team of five from the stable of Willie Mullins.
Mullins, who has saddled the runner-up on five occasions, could call upon Djakadam, second in both 2015 and 2016 and fourth when favourite in 2017, Total Recall, Killultagh VicBachasson and Acapella Bourgeois.
Noel Meade has a strong hand, thanks to recent G1 victor Road To Respect, who was successful in handicap company at The Festival last year, and the progressive Disko, while Gordon Elliott’s three entries include G1 victor Outlander.
The home challenge features last year’s second and third, Minella Rocco (Jonjo O’Neill) and Native River (Colin Tizzard). The latter is yet to race this season but is being aimed at the race, while Native River’s stablemate Cue Card, a dual winner at The Festival but a faller in the last two Cheltenham Gold Cups, is also engaged.
Coneygree (Mark Bradstock), who in 2015 became the first novice since Captain Christy in 1974 to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, has recently had a wind operation following two disappointing efforts this season. Kauto Star (2007 & 2009) is the only horse to have regained the Cheltenham Gold Cup crown.
Nigel Twiston-Davies, victorious with Imperial Commander in 2010, is responsible for impressive G1 Betfair Chase hero Bristol De Mai and runaway Becher Handicap Chase victor Blaklion.
The Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup
Grade 1, £625,000 Total Prize Fund. 3.30pm,Cheltenham, Friday, March 16, 2018. Three miles, two and a half furlongs (3m 2f 70y). For 5yo+ who are allotted a rating of 130 or more by the BHA Head of Handicapping following a review of the horses entered and after taking account of races run up to and including the day prior to confirmation. Horses who are not qualified for a rating in GB, IRE or FR may also be entered & such horses may be eligible providing the Handicapper is satisfied that the horse’s racecourse performances up to and including the day prior to confirmation would merit a minimum rating of 130 (the decision of the BHA Head of Handicapping shall be final). Weights: 5yo 11st 9lb, 6yo+ 11st 10lb. Allowances: mares 7lb. Entries closed Tuesday, January 9, entries revealed Wednesday, January 10 (38 entries), scratchings deadline Tuesday, February 13, £27,500 supplementary entry stage & six-day confirmation stage Saturday, March 10. Final 48-hour declaration stage, 10.00am, Wednesday, March 14. Maximum number of runners – 24.
Horse Age Owner Trainer
ACAPELLA BOURGEOIS (FR) 8 Slaneyville Syndicate Willie Mullins IRE
ANIBALE FLY (FR) 8 J P McManus Tony Martin IRE
BACHASSON (FR) 7 E O’Connell Willie Mullins IRE
BALKO DES FLOS (FR) 7 Gigginstown House Stud Henry de Bromhead IRE
BLAKLION 9 S Such & CG Paletta Nigel Twiston-Davies
BRISTOL DE MAI (FR) 7 Simon Munir & Isaac Souede Nigel Twiston-Davies
CLAN DES OBEAUX (FR) 6 Mr & Mrs P Barber, G Mason, Sir A Ferguson Paul Nicholls
CLOUDY DREAM (IRE) 8 Trevor Hemmings Malcolm Jefferson
CONEY ISLAND (IRE) 7 J P McManus Eddie Harty IRE
CONEYGREE 11 The Max Partnership Mark Bradstock
CUE CARD 12 Jean Bishop Colin Tizzard
DEFINITLY RED (IRE) 9 P J Martin Brian Ellison
DISKO (FR) 7 Gigginstown House Stud Noel Meade IRE
DJAKADAM (FR) 9 Susannah Ricci Willie Mullins IRE
DOUBLE SHUFFLE (IRE) 8 Crossed Fingers Partnership Tom George
EDWULF 9 J P McManus Joseph O’Brien IRE
EMPIRE OF DIRT (IRE) 11 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
KILLULTAGH VIC (IRE) 9 Rose Boyd/BAnderson/Mrs MArmstrong Willie Mullins IRE
MALA BEACH (IRE) 10 Chris Jones Gordon Elliott IRE
MIGHT BITE (IRE) 9 The Knot Again Partnership Nicky Henderson
MINELLA ROCCO (IRE) 8 J P McManus Jonjo O’Neill
NATIVE RIVER (IRE) 8 Brocade Racing Colin Tizzard
OUR DUKE (IRE) 8 Cooper Family Syndicate Jessica Harrington IRE
OUTLANDER (IRE) 10 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
ROAD TO RESPECT (IRE) 7 Gigginstown House Stud Noel Meade IRE
ROCK THE KASBAH (IRE) 8 Diana Whateley Philip Hobbs
SAPHIR DU RHEU (FR) 9 The Stewart Family Paul Nicholls
SHANTOU FLYER (IRE) 8 Carl Hinchy Richard Hobson
SINGLEFARMPAYMENT 8 N T Griffith & H M Haddock Tom George
SIZING JOHN 8 Ann & Alan Potts Limited Jessica Harrington IRE
SMAD PLACE (FR) 11 Mrs Peter Andrews Alan King
SUB LIEUTENANT (IRE) 9 Gigginstown House Stud Henry de Bromhead IRE
TEA FOR TWO 9 Jane Williams & Len Jakeman Nick Williams
TENOR NIVERNAIS (FR) 11 Boultbee Brooks Ltd Venetia Williams
THE LAST SAMURI (IRE) 10 Paul & Clare Rooney Kim Bailey
TOTAL RECALL (IRE) 9 Slaneyville Syndicate Willie Mullins IRE
VALSEUR LIDO (FR) 9 Gigginstown House Stud Henry de Bromhead IRE
WHISPER (FR) 10 Walters Plant Hire Ltd Nicky Henderson
38 entries
18 Irish-trained
Breakdown of Entries by Trainer
5 entries
Willie Mullins IRE - Acapella Bourgeois, Bachasson, Djakadam, Killultagh Vic, Total Recall
3 entries
Henry de Bromhead IRE - Balko Des Flos, Sub Lieutenant, Valseur Lido
Gordon Elliott IRE - Empire Of Dirt, Mala Beach, Outlander
2 entries
Tom George - Double Shuffle, Singlefarmpayment
Jessica Harrington IRE - Our Duke, Sizing John
Nicky Henderson - Might Bite, Whisper
Noel Meade IRE - Disko, Road To Respect
Paul Nicholls - Clan Des Obeaux, Saphir Du Rheu
Colin Tizzard - Cue Card, Native River
Nigel Twiston-Davies - Blaklion, Bristol De Mai
1 entry
Kim Bailey - The Last Samuri
Mark Bradstock - Coneygree
Brian Ellison - Definitly Red
Eddie Harty IRE - Coney Island
Philip Hobbs - Rock The Kasbah
Richard Hobson - Shantou Flyer
Malcolm Jefferson - Cloudy Dream
Alan King - Smad Place
Tony Martin IRE - Anibale Fly
Joseph O’Brien IRE - Edwulf
Jonjo O’Neill - Minella Rocco
Nick Williams - Tea For Two
Venetia Williams - Tenor Nivernais
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