Big guns hold sway in Gold Cup

TWENTY-FOUR horses, and all the big names, remain in the reckoning at the latest forfeit stage for next month’s totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.

These include the last four winners – Kauto Star (2007 and 2009), Denman (2008) and Imperial Commander (2010) – as well as the King George VI Chase hero Long Run and Hennessy Gold Cup star Diamond Harry.

The remaining contenders are Albertas Run, Carronhills, Carruthers, Chief Dan George, China Rock, Great Endeavour, Joncol, Kempes, Midnight Chase, Mon Mome, Neptune Collonges, Pandorama, Planet Of Sound, Pride Of Dulcote, Punchestowns, Synchronised, Tidal Bay, Weird Al and What A Friend.

Barker, Noland, Sizing Europe, Cooldine, The Nightingale and Time For Rupert are among the 10 scratchings.

Meanwhile all the major contenders for the Stan James Champion Hurdle have stood their ground following the latest forfeit stage.

Reigning champion Binocular is joined by the likes of Menorah, Hurricane Fly, Peddlers Cross and Oscar Whisky in what looks set to be a vintage renewal of the hurdling showpiece.

Mille Chief, Dunguib, Khyber Kim and Overturn are other notable possibles and although Cue Card remains in the reckoning, his trainer Colin Tizzard has revealed the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is his intended target.

Celestial Halo, Solwhit and Tocca Ferro were the only three scratchings, leaving 28 remaining entries.

Master Minded will face a maximum of 14 rivals when he attempts to land the Queen Mother Champion Chase for a third time on March 16.

Paul Nicholls’ brilliant two-miler, winner in 2008 and 2009, is unbeaten in three starts this season but must again take on Big Zeb.

The Irish raider left Master Minded back in fourth when winning last year’s renewal of the Cheltenham feature.

Somersby, who ran Master Minded so close in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot last month, is in the field with Nicholls also represented by Tataniano and Woolcombe Folly.

Captain Cee Bee, Cornas, French Opera, Gauvain, Golden Silver, I’m So Lucky, J’y Vole, Mad Max, Scotsirish and Sizing Europe complete a select gathering.

Nicholls has taken out Tchico Polos while other notable absentees were Petit Robin and the out-of-sorts pair Forpadydeplasterer and Crack Away Jack.

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