/ Racing

Previous winners head Gold Cup entries

Updated: Wednesday, 12 Jan 2011 16:39

2010 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander
2010 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander

Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander - the last three winners of the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup - feature among 34 entries for chasing's blue riband prize in March.

The first-named, trained by Paul Nicholls, was successful in 2007 and 2009, and his stablemate Denman won in 2008 while Nigel Twiston-Davies' Imperial Commander upstaged both last spring with a surprise victory.

Nicholls has a total of seven entries while last year's third Mon Mome, the fourth Carruthers and the fifth Cooldine may go back and bid for glory.

Kauto Star was a faller in last year's race and will be in action at Kempton on Saturday when striving for an historic fifth victory in the rescheduled William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton.

Denman is set to head straight to the Festival, having finished a gallant third under top weight in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November.

‘Denman had a nice break after the Hennessy. He's just started out again and had his first canter yesterday for a long while. He'll now be cantering every day and be sharpened up for Cheltenham,’ the champion trainer told At The Races.

‘We proved last year by running him in the Aon (Newbury) not fully wound-up it wasn't the right thing to do.

‘He wants to be at his very best and it's pointless having him at his best a month before the Gold Cup.

‘Realistically it's his last chance of running at his very best this year.

‘We're going to give him every chance and have him as good as we can on the day, so that's what we are aiming to do.’

Tom Cooper's 2009 Arkle hero Forpadydeplasterer, Barker, Kempes, Joncol, Sizing Europe and China Rock are other Irish possibles.

Hennessy winner Diamond Harry, Neil Mulholland's Cheltenham specialist Midnight Chase, Money Trix, Planet Of Sound, Tidal Bay and Paul Webber's exciting novice Time For Rupert, the ante-post favourite for the RSA Chase at the Festival, also hold Gold Cup entries.

The other members of a formidable Nicholls team are Neptune Collonges, who took third in 2008 and fourth in 2009, Noland, What A Friend, Pride Of Dulcote and King George hopeful The Nightingale.

In addition to Imperial Commander, four other winners at last year's Festival have been entered.

They are Jonjo O'Neill's Ryanair Chase victor Albertas Run, Jimmy Moffatt's Chief Dan George (Festival Trophy Handicap Chase), Henry de Bromhead's Sizing Europe (Arkle Trophy), and David Pipe's Great Endeavour (Byrne Group Plate).

O'Neill also provides an intriguing entry in Synchronised, winner of Saturday's Coral Welsh National at Chepstow.

Another trainer doubly represented is Nicky Henderson, with King George fancy Long Run and Punchestowns.

There is a strong potential challenge of nine from Ireland including Pandorama, who entered the Gold Cup picture with victory in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

His trainer Noel Meade said: ‘Pandorama will hopefully head to Cheltenham providing he is fit and well, although we wouldn't run him on good going. Good to soft ground would be OK and we would love to run him in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

‘He has come out of his victory in the Lexus Chase in very good form and we have always thought that he was capable of winning a big race like that. He would obviously have to improve again to have a chance at Cheltenham but he is still a young chaser.

‘In the Hennessy at Newbury, he stood back at the first ditch and landed right in front of the fence. Two horses fell in front of him two fences later - the fright early on added to the two horses falling completely unnerved him and there was no point continuing.

‘He has generally been a good jumper and we hoped that he would learn from that experience and won't do it again.

‘So he has really only had four runs over fences and you would be hopeful that there is more to come from him.

‘The plan is for him to run in the Irish Hennessy at Leopardstown at the start of February and then, fingers crossed, he will go to Cheltenham.’