Reigning champion Kauto Star tops 42 fantastic contenders engaged in the £450,000 totesport Gold Cup at Cheltenham
The Clive Smith-owned eight-year-old demolished his rivals when winning a second successive King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and will bid to etch his name among the greats with a second Gold Cup triumph at The Festival on Friday, March 14.
Kauto Star could face his biggest challenge in the extended three and a quarter mile contest from stablemate Denman, last season’s Grade One Royal & SunAlliance Chase winner at The Festival, who defied top-weight of 11st 12lb when pulverising his rivals in the Grade Three Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury and then took the Grade One Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28 by four lengths from Mossbank
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained Exotic Dancer chased home Kauto Star in last season’s totesport Gold Cup and filled the same berth in the Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 24, before taking third in the King George, one place behind the David Pipetrained Our Vic.
Dorset handler Robert Alner took the totesport Gold Cup in 1998 with Cool Dawn and he has entered dual Grade One winner The Listener. The grey easily defeated subsequent Grade One Dial-A-Bet Paddy Power Chase winner Mansony, trained by Arthur Moore, when winning the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on December 9, prior to finishing third in the Lexus Chase.
As well as Kauto Star and Denman, Nicholls’ powerful entry consists of Grade One Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup hero Neptune Collonges, 2006 Royal & SunAlliance Chase victor Star De Mohaison, and the smart pair of Turko and Gungadu. North Yorkshire handler Ferdy Murphy has entered last season’s top-class novices Aces Four and Another Promise, along with L’Antartique. The last-named was successful in the Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November and the Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase at the 2007 Festival.
David Pipe has engaged Grade Three Boylesports.com Gold Cup winner Tamarinbleu, King George runner-up Our Vic, Celestial Gold, Dom D’Orgeval, Madison Du Berlais and Milan Deux Mille.
The first four home in the 2007 totesport Gold Cup are entered again, with last year’s third Turpin Green, trained by Nicky Richards, and the Philip Hobbs-trained Monkerhostin, who took fourth that day, potential rivals once again. Barbury Castle trainer Alan King could run Halcon Genelardais, the 2006 Coral Welsh National winner who, in bidding for a second victory in the Chepstow marathon on December 27, carried top-weight of 11st 12lb but gallantly failed by a head to hold off Miko
Henrietta Knight saddled the great Best Mate to three victories in the totesport Gold Cup (2002, 2003 and 2004) and has entered King George fourth Racing Demon, while Henry Daly has engaged Billyvoddan and Evan Williams could run 2006 Hennessy Cognac
Gold Cup winner State Of Play.
Fundamentalist won the 2004 Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle for Nigel Twiston-Davies, while the Michael Scudamore-trained Azulejo - a Listed winner in France - is entered, as is the Paul Murphy-trained Contraband, who won the 2005 Grade One Irish Independent Arkle when trained by Martin Pipe. Peter Bowen, who sent out the 2005
runner-up Take The Stand has entered Iron Man.
The 11-strong Irish entry is headed by the Tom Taaffe-trained former champion Kicking King. The 10-year-old was victorious in the 2005 totesport Gold Cup but has been sidelined since taking back-to-back renewals of the King George VI Chase in December, 2005, and could bid to reclaim his crown in what would be a fascinating clash with Kauto
Mossbank, trained by Michael Hourigan, has emerged as a leading player in Ireland this term. The eight-year-old landed the Grade Two Clonmel Oil Chase in November prior to chasing home Denman at Leopardstown. Willie Mullins saddled 2005 Grand National hero Hedgehunter to finish runner-up behind War Of Attrition in the 2006 totesport Gold Cup and the 12-year-old could bid to go one
better in 2008. Mullins has four horses engaged in all, the others being 2007 Royal & SunAlliance Chase second Snowy Morning, the top-class Rule Supreme, who was last seen finishing runner-up in the 2005 French Champion Hurdle and the smart Alexander Taipan.
Michael O’Brien has engaged Grade One victor In Compliance, while Dessie Hughes has entered Strong Flow, winner of the 2003 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup when trained by Paul Nicholls.
Charlie Swan, who rode the great Istabraq to three Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle triumphs and is now a trainer, could run Grade One winner Offshore Account, while Tom Mullins has entered Chelsea Harbour and Davy Fitzgerald could run last season’s Grade One Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase hero Mister Top Notch.
The last French-trained success in the totesport Gold Cup came when the Francois Doumen-trained The Fellow took the spoils in 1994, but the Richard Chotard-trained pair of Majadal and Fustrien De Paon both face a very stiff task.