Nicky Henderson quintet head Gold Cup entries
Nicky Henderson has five horses among the 40 entries for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Last Updated: 09/01/13 5:07pm
The race, set to take place on Friday March 15, boasts a record prize fund of £550,000 (up from £500,000 in 2012).
The master of Seven Barrows looks to hold a particularly strong hand as his hopefuls include 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.
The days of Kauto Star and Denman may now be over but reigning champion trainer Paul Nicholls still 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 28.
Kauto Stone, Kauto Star's half-brother, and What A Friend complete Nicholls' quartet of entries.
A dozen entries hail from Ireland, including general 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 at Leopardstown.
Flemenstar appeared to find three miles the limit of his stamina in the Lexus Chase, 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 at Leopardstown on February 9 before deciding on a target at The Festival.
An intriguing entry is the Tom George-trained Mail De Bievre.
The eight-year-old was a high-class performer in France, where his successes included the Grade Two Prix Murat over two miles and six furlongs in April, 2010. However, Mail De Bievre has not been seen out since finishing fourth over hurdles at the same venue in September, 2011.