Sir Des Champs currently second favourite
©Healy Racing Photos
There are 12 Irish-trained possibles among the total of 40 entries unveiled today for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Chasing's Blue Riband, which takes place over an extended three and a quarter miles, is due to take place on Friday, March 15th and boasts a record prize fund of £550,000 (up from £500,000 in 2012).
A dozen entries hail from Ireland, including Betfred's 5/1 second favourite Sir Des Champs.
The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old landed the Jewson Novices' Chase at last year's Festival and was a staying-on fourth behind Tidal Bay in the Lexus Chase.
Flemenstar appeared to find three miles the limit of his stamina at Leopardstown, when he finished a close third to Tidal Bay and First Lieutenant, but trainer Peter Casey has stated he wishes to give the eight-year-old another try at the distance in the Hennessy Gold Cup on February 9th before deciding on a target at The Festival.
Nicky Henderson is responsible for five contenders. The master of Seven Barrows looks to hold a particularly strong hand as his hopefuls include Betfred's 3/1 favourite Bobs Worth, winner of this season's Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury and unbeaten in four outings at Cheltenham including at the last two Festivals.
Henderson has also entered the 2011 scorer Long Run, who finished third in 2012 and won the King George VI Chase for a second time at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. Finian's Rainbow, successful at The Festival last season in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase, could step up in distance, while Henderson's two other entries are last season's Ryanair Chase scorer Riverside Theatre and Roberto Goldback.
Paul Nicholls also has a strong team for 2013, including Silviniaco Conti, who recorded an impressive first Grade One victory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November and the revitalised Tidal Bay, who defeated Ireland's best chasers in the Grade One Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28th. Kauto Stone, Kauto Star's half-brother, and What A Friend complete Nicholls' quartet of entries.