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Henderson's Gold-en hand

A DOZEN Irish entries were received for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March as the list of 40 possible contenders were released yesterday, with Nicky Henderson boasting a very strong hand for jump racing's blue riband race.

Henderson has an extremely enviable quintet entered and Boylesports make him just 13/8 to win the 2013 Gold Cup, with Hennessy winner Bobs Worth and former Gold Cup hero Long Run leading the charge.

As expected, the first four home from the Lexus Chase, all of whom were separated by less than three parts of a length, hold Gold Cup entries, although firm plans for any of that quartet are yet to be made.

Winner Tidal Bay will also be given an entry for the World Hurdle, while the Gigginstown-owned duo of First Lieutenant and Sir Des Champs will also be considered by the Ryanair Chase, and Peter Casey's Flemenstar is also due to be entered in the Champion Chase as well as the Ryanair and Gold Cup.

Flemenstar's owner, Stephen Curran, was again reiterating yesterday that the only plan set in stone for his horse is the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown and following that plans, if any, for Cheltenham will be made.

Curran said: "He's in great order, but we will make plans for Cheltenham much closer to the time.

"He'll be entered in the Queen Mother, the Ryanair Chase and the Gold Cup but we are concentrating on the Hennessy.

"Cheltenham is two months away and you wouldn't know what was going on with the ground by then."

Having been flamboyant in the early parts of the Lexus, Curran did suggest a possible change of tactics for his next big assignment back at Leopardstown.

"In hindsight, we should have gone a mile out.

"If we'd have done that, he'd have put a lot of the horses in trouble with his jumping, which is his biggest asset.

"The ground was also hard work the other day, so that was another reason."

As regards the great debate of whether or not Flemenstar will stay the gruelling extended three-and-a-quarter miles of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Curran added: "I think he'll definitely stay. He's still only a baby and still has a great future."

Paul Nicholls will bid to move on from the Denman and Kauto Star era and among his potential team for the Gold Cup are Tidal Bay, Kauto Star's half-brother Kauto Stone, What A Friend and exciting young prospect Silviniaco Conti, who won the Betfair Chase earlier in the season.

As well as Sir Des Champs and First Lieutenant, other Gigginstown horses still in the Gold Cup mix are Weapons Amnesty, Quito De La Roque and Bog Warrior, while speculative entries have been given to mud-loving Joncol and Gordon Elliott's Jessies Dream, who continues on the comeback trail.

The full list of Irish horses entered in the Gold Cup on March 16 is completed by the Willie Mullins duo of Quel Esprit and Prince De Beauchene, Mouse Morris' China Rock and, of course, Henry de Bromhead's dual Festival winner Sizing Europe.