The initial list of entries for the Cheltenham Gold cup in March have been released and we have 34 runners declared at this early stage. The stellar list is headed by defending Champion Long Run and dual winner Kauto Star who is aiming to win the race as a 12 year-old. The top two in the betting are entered as expected as they remain on course for a rematch in the biggest race of the season. Long Run is of course the younger horse and remains the favourite in the betting but Kauto Star has been in blistering form this season and has beaten the favourite in two successive occasions. In total Paul Nicholls has entered five in the gold cup with the likes if What A Friend and Tidal Bay possibly acting as support to Kauto Star on the last day of the Festival in March.
Outside of the expected entries there are one or two surprise names appearing on the list with the exciting Finians Rainbow perhaps the most intriguing of them all. The Nicky Henderson horse is currently towards the head of the Champion Chase market but at nine it is clear that connections are mulling over a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup title for the Arkle runner-up from 2011. It remains to be seen whether or not we will see Finians Rainbow take his chance with stable mate Long Run but he is a massively interesting potential runner at this very early stage. There are eight entries from Ireland in total with the likes of Quito de La Roque and China Rock perhaps the pick of them of what looks like a decent list. All eyes though remain on Kauto Star and Long Run as they get ready to meet for the third and in all probability the final time at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival.