'Mad fresh' Star is up for the cup
Just days before Kauto Star bids to cement his place as an all-time great with a fifth consecutive win in the King George, he was one of three previous Gold Cup winners to appear among the 34 entries for the blue riband contest of the Cheltenham Festival.
The March showpiece continues to sneak rapidly up on us and yesterday saw the first set of entries close.
Last year's winner, Imperial Commander, heads the potential runners while Kauto Star's stable companion and next door neighbour, Denman, is also engaged in an attempt to win back the Gold Cup.
Paul Nicholls is looking towards running four horses but yesterday left seven in the race which carries a £500,000 prize tag in 2011.
"Obviously, Kauto Star heads our Gold Cup entries and he was mad fresh and well when schooling for the final time ahead of Saturday's King George," Nicholls said yesterday. "Denman has just started back cantering after his break, and the other two that are being targeted at the race at the moment are Pride Of Dulcote and What A Friend."
The champion trainer revealed that Pride Of Dulcote is set to come to Leopardstown for a crack at the leading Irish contender for the Gold Cup, Pandorama.
"Pride Of Dulcote goes to the Irish Hennessy on February 6 after his comeback defeat of Punchestowns at Newbury, while What A Friend goes to the Aon before the Festival. Neptune Collonges, Noland and The Nightingale make up the septet."
Pandorama is one of nine Irish entries for the race and they also include King George-bound Forpadydeplaster and absentee Sizing Europe.
Also entered are last year's Irish Hennessy winner Joncol, the Willie Mullins trio of Barker, Cooldine and Kempes, Eoin Griffin's Glenvoce Marina and the Mouse Morris-trained China Rock.
Of Pandorama, trainer Noel Meade said: "Pandorama will hopefully head to Cheltenham providing he is fit and well.
"Good to soft ground would be ok and we would love to run him."
Paddy Power have inserted Pandorama as the 11/8 favourite for the Hennessy next month as he bids to give Meade his first win in the 3m Grade One.
Irish Hennessy Gold Cup -- Paddy Power Bet: 11/8 Pandorama, 9/2 Joncol, Pride Of Dulcote, 8 Money Trix, 10 Cooldine, 12 Kempes, 14 Barker, China Rock, Glencove Marina, The Listener, 20 J'y Vole, Rare Bob.