fever to lead mullins raid
A quartet of potential runners for champion trainer Willie Mullins heads a strong Irish challenge for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on November 29.
The Carlow handler could run dual Cheltenham Festival scorer Champagne Fever, Ballycasey, Djakadam and The Paparrazi Kid as he bids to win one of the most prestigious prizes in National Hunt racing for the first time.
Compatriot Mouse Morris could saddle three-times Grade One winner First Lieutenant, who finished second to Bobs Worth in the 2012 Hennessy Gold Cup.
Other notable contenders from Ireland include Gordon Elliott's Don Cossack, Mullaghanoe River from Noel Meade's yard, and the Dessie Hughes-trained Lyreen Legend. The total of 58 entries is up from 53 last year and is the highest figures since 2010.
Nicky Henderson has taken the £175,000 showpiece three times in his career, including the latest two renewals with Bobs Worth and Triolo D'Alene.
The latter could bid to become the first back-to-back winner since the great Arkle in 1965, while Henderson may also run Hadrian's Approach.
Bobs Worth had been in contention but he has been taken out by the Seven Barrows handler.
Paul Nicholls is another three-times winner of the Hennessy as a trainer and is responsible for seven of the possible runners, including last year's runner-up Rocky Creek, Unioniste and Just A Par.
Smad Place, The Romford Pele and the Philip Hobbs pair of Fingal Bay and Roalco De Farges also feature.
Evan Williams faces a race against time as he bids to get Buywise back to Cheltenham in peak condition for the Paddy Power Gold Cup on November 15.
The seven-year-old won four of his five starts over fences last season, suffering his only defeat when fifth behind Present View at the Cheltenham Festival.
He rounded off his campaign with an emphatic victory at Prestbury Park and recently made a winning return over hurdles at Ludlow, but Williams is unsure whether that run will have brought him on sufficiently to have a crack at the prestigious Grade Three handicap.
"I will see how things pan out and Buywise will probably work again next Wednesday. We will see where we go from there," said the trainer.
"He might need another run beforehand if we go to Cheltenham and so I might be struggling for time. His run last time was badly needed.
"I'd love to go for the Paddy Power and that was the point of running him last week. It sort of backfired on us as he won but didn't have a hard enough race.
"My first and foremost aim is to get him to the Paddy Power Gold Cup - he loves it round Cheltenham and that is where I want to be with him."
Last year's Paddy Power winner Johns Spirit looks likely to defend his crown following his course victory earlier this month.
There are seven Irish-trained entries, with champion trainer Willie Mullins responsible for four.
The County Carlow maestro could run dual Festival winner Champagne Fever, Ballycasey, Felix Yonger and The Paparrazi Kid.