More heads Cheltenham entries
The £160,000 BetVictor Gold Cup, the highlight of The Open at Cheltenham, has attracted 43 entries for its 2016 renewal on Saturday, November 12.
More Of That is the early market leader
The extended two and a half mile Grade Three handicap chase is sponsored by BetVictor for the first time this year and they have installed More Of That (Jonjo O'Neill) at the head of their betting.
Owned by J P McManus, the eight-year-old landed the World Hurdle at The Festival in 2014 and won two of his three starts over fences last season. He last raced when third in the RSA Chase at The Festival in March.
O'Neill has also entered Taquin Du Seuil, who enjoyed his finest hour when capturing the G1 JLT Novices' Chase at The Festival in 2014.
Garde La Victoire has won at The Open for the past two season, having taken the Greatwood Hurdle in 2014 and the Arkle Trophy Trial Novices' Chase last year.
The progressive seven-year-old recently confirmed his well-being when successful under top-weight in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las. His trainer Philip Hobbs, who won the race in 1989 with Joint Sovereignty, could also be represented by Village Vic, successful in last season's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and a handicap chase on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham.
David Pipe won this race with Great Endeavour in 2011, while his father Martin won the race a record eight times. The two entries from Pond House on the Somerset/Devon border this year are Ballynagour, winner of the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate in 2014, and the four-year-old King's Socks, who has yet to start in Britain but is a chase winner in France, where he was also placed over hurdles at the top level.
The champion trainer Paul Nicholls landed this prize with Caid Du Berlais in 2014 and has the most entries of any trainer this time around with eight possible starters. In addition to Caid Du Berlais, they also include the 2015 Cleeve Hurdle winner Saphir Du Rheu, As De Mee, Art Mauresque and the four-year-old Frodon, an impressive victor on both his British starts over fences.
Last year's race saw Annacotty see off the fast-finishing Buywise by half a length. The pair are both entered again, with Buywise last seen out when fourth on his seasonal debut in a handicap hurdle at Aintree on October 23.
His trainer Evan Williams could also be represented by King's Odyssey, who won two of his three starts over fences last season including the Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day in January.
Williams, who trains at Llancarfan in the Vale Of Glamorgan, reported: "The plan is to run either Buywise or King's Odyssey in the BetVictor Gold Cup and which one goes to Cheltenham will be dictated by the ground. If the going doesn't suit the one horse, hopefully it will suit the other.
"We are definitely keeping an eye on the race for Buywise again, although he is a much better horse on decent ground.
"His run over the weekend was fantastic and just what the doctor ordered after what happened in the Grand National. It was stupid to try him in that race because he was either going to be an almighty failure or just scrape round – the fact that he did the latter was a good thing.
"I had convinced myself that the Grand National was worth trying but we are going back to what we know he can do. He has nothing up his sleeve from the handicapper but the ground wasn't ideal in the BetVictor Gold Cup last year and the way the race was run wasn't great either.
"We have had such a dry autumn that everything could fall right for him this time.
"King's Odyssey is the complete opposite in terms of the ground. He is very good over his fences but would want plenty of cut. The BetVictor Gold Cup is the obvious target for him if the ground is soft enough.
"He did it nicely at Cheltenham last season and we didn't run him again because he is a big lump of a horse and we didn't want to take a risk on quicker going.
"I hope that a mark of 147 would give him a very good chance if we got plenty of rain beforehand."
Other contenders include Bristol De Mai, a Grade One winner at Sandown Park last season and runner-up in the JLT Novices' Chase at The Festival, and Double Shuffle, who was a good third in the Listed Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase at The Festival in March.
There are two Irish-trained entries. Both hail from the yard of Gordon Elliott – last season's Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate hero Empire Of Dirt and Killer Crow.
Weights for the BetVictor Gold Cup will be revealed on Wednesday, November 2 while the safety limit is 20.
The sponsors' Charlie McCann commented: "We are delighted by the quality and quantity of the entries for the inaugural staging of this historic handicap chase as the BetVictor Gold Cup.
"Our market is led by the former World Hurdler More Of That, who has such a terrific record at Cheltenham and is currently rated 13lb lower over fences than over hurdles.
"Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has eight entries including Frodon, one of two four-year-olds who could make history if they line up next month.
"The Pipe family will always be associated with the race and King's Socks is another fascinating four-year-old, one of two entries at this stage for David in what promises to be a magnificent race."
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