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Henderson delighted with Bobs Worth ahead of Gold Cup defense

Trainer Nicky Henderson believes he has a strong team to go to war with at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, spearheaded by Gold Cup favourite Bobs Worth.

The Lambourn handler will be without key players in the shape of the below-par Sprinter Sacre and injured Simonsig, as well as former Gold Cup winner Long Run who will bypass the meeting in favour of a crack at the Crabbie’s Grand National.

However, he was in an upbeat mood as he discussed his possible 35-runners at the Festival and played down claims that he was enduring a poor season.

He said: “My situation is not as gloomy as some people have made out – we are only one winner behind last year at this stage.

“Sadly, we will be missing a lot of the A team at The Festival but I am cheerful.

“This season has not been a disaster – I think we have won six Grade Ones and it usually is a good season if we do that.

“When we had said about Sprinter Sacre missing Cheltenham, life was actually a bit easier again. A decision had been made, and I knew it was the right one, and now we could get on with things.

“We have got what we have. We have not got Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig and we are not going to run Long Run (kept for the Crabbie’s Grand National) but we have some very good horses.”

There is no doubting that Bobs Worth, who got back to winning ways in the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown after disappointing in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, is the big hope for the stable as he bids to maintain his unbeaten record at the track and land back-to-back victories in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 14th.

Henderson reported him in good shape ahead of a planned racecourse gallop at Newbury as his final piece of serious prep-work, and singled out Silviniaco Conti and Last Instalment as his main dangers.

He said: “The Gold Cup is very open. By and large it’s the same faces, although the horse who won the other day, Last Instalment, is interesting as he beat First Lieutenant by further than we did.

“Silviniaco Conti is the obvious horse. He would have been close if he hadn’t fallen last year. With the Irish, I think we know where we are with them. Yes, Silviniaco Conti beat us at Haydock, but we’re better than that.

“You know if he’s in contention as they run to the second-last, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll finish his race off.”

Bobs Worth is 7/4 with Coral to retain his Gold Cup crown.

Henderson also reported My Tent Or Yours to be spot on for the Champion Hurdle, for which he is 7/2 with Coral, and Oscar Whisky (8/1) firmly on course for the JLT Novices’ Chase as he bids to break his Festival duck at the fifth time of asking.

The Seven Barrows’ handler also has a strong team of novice hurdlers lined up with Josses Hill (10/1) confirmed as a runner in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Royal Boy (6/1) set to take his chance in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and Dawalan holding just a sole entry in the Fred Winter.

Of his leading novices, Henderson said: “I’m toying with the Supreme for Vaniteux, while Captain Cutter could go for the Neptune or the Albert Bartlett. He’ll probably go for the Albert Bartlett as it can sometimes be an easier race.”