Record Irish-trained entries in 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup
David Metcalf | January 13, 2016
Irish trainers are responsible for well over half of the 32 entries revealed today for the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup, the highlight on the fourth and final day of The Festival on Friday, March 18th.
Many of the 18 Irish-trained entries, a new record with previous highest being 13, are housed with the country’s champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins who is after a first victory in the 3m 2f showpiece.
The County Carlow handler has eight horses in contention, headlined by the Susannah Ricci-owned duo of Djakadam, runner-up last year and currently 7/2 favourite with Coral to go one better, and dual scorer Festival scorer Vautour (8/1).
O’Leary with nine entries
RSA Chase hero Don Poli, 5/1 joint second-favourite and one of nine entries for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, is also engaged by Mullins alongside fellow Grade 1 victors Sir Des Champs (25/1), Boston Bob and Valseur Lido (40/1). On His Own, runner-up to Lord Windermere (Jim Culloty) in the 2014 renewal, and Ballycasey complete the Mullins octet.
Don Cossack (5/1 joint second-favourite with Coral) heads three entries for another Irish trainer Gordon Elliott who is yet to have a runner in the race.
The nine-year-old is the highest-rated chaser in training after Grade 1 triumphs at Aintree and Punchestown in the spring, but blotted his copybook when falling in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. Elliott has also entered exciting novice No More Heroes, and Roi Du Mee.
Noel Meade is doubly represented by dual Grade One scorer Road To Riches (20/1), who was beaten three and a half lengths into third last year, and RSA Chase third Wounded Warrior (40/1).
Can Meade duo defy long absences to triumph?
Road To Riches has not run since landing the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase in November, while Wounded Warrior last appeared when chasing home Valseur Lido in a Grade 1 contest at Punchestown in April.
Meade said: “I could not be happier with Road To Riches. We had a bit of a blood disorder and snotty nose with him at Christmas, but all is well now and the plan is to go to Leopardstown for the Irish Gold Cup (February 6th).
“I felt last year that we tried to put it up to Coneygree and then Djakadam came and got us as we faded on the run-in. I think Djakadam will improve because he was a young horse last year.
“I would be really happy if I could get Road To Riches to Cheltenham in the same condition as last year. He might even improve a little bit as well because he will be a fresher horse this time around. He’d had a long season going there last year.
“I’m not sure ground is a big factor with Road To Riches. He handles soft ground and goes on good ground. You would say the ground was a help to Coneygree last year and we know Djakadam goes very well on soft ground. Those are factors that might make a difference, but we will see.”
Carlingford Lough (trained by John Kiely), Gilgamboa (Enda Bolger), First Lieutenant (Mouse Morris) and Morning Assembly (Pat Fahy) complete the Irish entries.
Plenty home talent entries also on offer
Cue Card (6/1 with Coral) heads the home challenge after an excellent campaign that has seen the rejuvenated 10-year-old win the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park and the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton Park.
The latter two victories have set the Colin Tizzard him up for a tilt at the new £1m bonus offered by Jockey Club Racecourses for any horse who can win the Betfair Chase, King George VI Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup this season.
Alan King has entered impressive Hennessy Gold Cup scorer Smad Place (25/1), while Saphir Du Rheu tops three entries for Britain’s champion Jump trainer Paul Nicholls.
The only British-trained novice engaged is Scottish-based Seeyouatmidnight who hails from the yard of Sandy Thomson and produced an excellent round of jumping to win a Grade 2 novices’ chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
Other notable names include Al Ferof, third to Cue Card on Boxing Day, 2014 RSA Chase victor O’Faolains Boy and 2015 Crabbie’s Grand National hero Many Clouds who finished sixth last year.