We are now firmly on the path towards the Cheltenham Festival and the latest evidence of that is the announcement of the initial list of runners for the Gold Cup. At this early stage we have a field of 40 runners for the showpiece race of the season headed up by the well backed Bobs Worth. The Hennessy Gold Cup winner is one of five entries for Nicky Henderson with 2011 winner Long Run, Finians Rainbow, Roberto Goldback and Riverside Theatre also in the field for the Seven Barrows team. Bobs Worth has been the solid favourite for the race since winning the Hennessy last year which coupled with his excellent Cheltenham form makes him a solid choice at this stage. Riverside Theatre is likely to miss the race for the Ryanair which he of course won last year while the Festival aim for Champion Chaser Finians Rainbow remains up in the air at the moment. Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls may have lost Kauto Star this year but he enters the well fancied Silviniaco Conti, Kauto Stone, What A Friend and Lexus winner Tidal Bay for the race which could be a very strong hand.
All of the main market contenders from Ireland also stood their ground at the first stage with the likes of Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs given entries to the race. Flemenstar is however not a certain runner with stamina doubts remaining but there is no doubting his class and he would make for a fascinating entry in the big race. Sir Des Champs on the other hand has been aimed at the Gold Cup all season by trainer Willie Mullins who is looking to saddle the horse to a third Cheltenham Festival win on the bounce. As well as the big names there are one or two other interesting entries for the race at this stage including Jessies Dream who has been off track since coming second in the RSA Chase in 2011 and connections could throw him straight back in the deep end. There are also one or two potential Grand National contenders in the field at this stage with the likes Katenko, Teaforthree, Junior and Calgary Bay all being considered for the race as a tune up for the big one at Aintree. They are of course all available at a big price but the National horses do stay the trip well and the odd one has been known to nick a place in the Gold Cup as Mon Mome did when third back in 2010.