Defending champion Al Boum Photo, the current 5/1 favourite with William Hill, headlines 31 entries for the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup at the home of jumps racing on Friday, March 13th. The seven-year-old provided the Closutton handler with his first victory in the Grade 1 feature run over 3m 2f on the 4th day of the Cheltenham Festival when beating Anibale Fly by 2 1/2 length in 2019.

Ireland’s multiple champion Jump trainer had previously saddled the runner-up in chasing’s blue riband contest on six occasions. The great Best Mate (2002, 2003, 2004) is the most recent horse to successfully defend the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Al Boum Photo is likely to head straight to Cheltenham following a convincing six length victory over stable companion Acapello Bourgeois in the Grade 3 Savills New Year’s Day Chase at Tramore – just as he did last year.

Mullins is responsible for four of the 16 Irish-trained entries in total, with Al Boum Photo joined by his Grade 1 Punchestown Gold Cup winner Kemboy, – 7/1 second favourite with bet365 – Bellshill and Real Steel. Two other winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup are engaged – 2018 victor Native River and 2017 scorer Sizing John.They are aiming to emulate Kauto Star (2007 & 2009), who is the only horse to regain his Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Ireland’s challenge also includes multiple Grade 1 winners Delta Work, a 10/1 shot with Paddy Power trained by Gordon Elliott, and Noel Meade’s Road To Respect. They are among six entries for owners Gigginstown House Stud. The Irish challenge also features 2018 Grade 1 RSA Novices’ Chase victor Presenting Percy, who started the 100/30 favourite in 2019 when finishing eighth. He can be backed at 12/1 with Betfair for this year’s renewal.

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Clan Des Obeaux the pick of Nicholls duo

No current trainer has enjoyed more success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup than Paul Nicholls, thanks to the triumphs of See More Business (1999), Kauto Star and Denman (2008).

The Ditcheat handler has two entries in 2020 – last year’s fifth Clan Des Obeaux (8/1 with Paddy Power)- who captured the Grade 1 King George VI Chase for a second time at Kempton Park on Boxing Day – and Frodon who scored a memorable success in the 2019 Grade 1 Ryanair Chase under Bryony Frost.

As well as Native River, trainer Colin Tizzard is also represented by Lostintranslation, who was pulled up behind Clan Des Obeaux in the King George and has since undergone a wind operation and can be backed at 8/1 with bet365. The seven-year-old had previously been impressive previously when beating Bristol de Mai in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November and connections report that he is set to head straight to the Cheltenham Festival.

Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, told Sky Sports Racing:

“He had an off-day. Whether Haydock took more out of him than perhaps we thought, it’s hard to tell, but all his work leading up to Kempton was very good and we couldn’t have been happier.

“It’s our job now to get him back and get him 100 per cent for the Gold Cup. It would be nice to point at something and say that was the reason, but we haven’t got that, so we’ll just freshen him up and I don’t think we will run him before the Gold Cup.

“We can do plenty at home and just maybe take him for a couple of racecourse gallops and freshen him right up for March.”

Bristol De Mai set to go on Trial in Cotswold Chase

Bristol de Mai, who finished third in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, has been kept fresh since the Betfair Chase and is likely to run next in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase on Festival Trials Day (January 25) – the final meeting at Cheltenham before the four-day extravaganza a month later.

Anthony Bromley, racing manager for owners Simon Munir & Isaac Souede, said:

Bristol de Mai has been pleasing Nigel and is on schedule for the Cotswold Chase at the end of the month, in preparation hopefully for another tilt at the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.

“The idea after the Betfair Chase was to always go Cotswold Chase and then Gold Cup, and Nigel has been particularly happy with him of late. There wasn’t really a race for him over Christmas, as we did not want to take him to Kempton because he hasn’t really fired there for the last couple of years.

“He finished third in the Gold Cup last year and, although he is fairly big odds as things stand, we are looking forward to having another crack at it. Maybe his odds are a touch too big, but we are not kidding ourselves because it is going to be a tough ask. I suppose if he goes and wins the Cotswold Chase, he will shorten, won’t he?

“We have put him in the Ryanair Chase as well, just to give us that option, but it is more than likely that he goes for the Gold Cup.”

Other notable Cheltenham Gold Cup entries are the in-form Henry de Bromhead-trained pair of Monalee and Chris’s Dream. Monalee finished second behind Delta Work in the Grade 1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, while Chris’s Dream captured the Troytown Handicap Chase impressively at Navan when last seen out in November.

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