Part-owner Malcolm Kimmins admits Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth is likely to have plenty on his plate as he kicks off his season in what looks a mouth-watering renewal of the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.
The Nicky Henderson-trained eight-year-old made just two appearances in the whole of the last campaign, claiming the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury before securing his fifth win from as many starts at Cheltenham in the blue riband in March.
He will encounter new surroundings when he heads to Merseyside this weekend and is the star name among a list of 10 entries that also include last year’s winner Silviniaco Conti, Long Run, Cue Card, Dynaste and Tidal Bay.
Kimmins, part of owning syndicate The Not Afraid Partnership, said: “It looks like being a fantastic race – a mini Gold Cup if you like.
“I’ve been at Seven Barrows today and the horse is well. He’s done everything right so far in his preparation and he’s ready to start.
“When you win the Gold Cup you inevitably set the standard. Haydock is obviously a very different track to Cheltenham, but we’re not too worried about that.”
Henderson could launch a formidable twin assault on the Grade One prize if he decides to saddle Long Run.
However, the 2011 Gold Cup hero, second in the last two runnings of the Betfair Chase, has something to prove after finishing out of the first three for the first time over fences when only fifth in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby.
Silviniaco Conti and Tidal Bay are both on course to line up for Henderson’s great rival Paul Nicholls.
With stable jockey Daryl Jacob due to be in action at Ascot, Noel Fehily will come in for the ride aboard Silviniaco Conti.
Sam Twiston-Davies is in line to keep the ride on Tidal Bay having guided him to victory over hurdles at Wetherby recently.
Nicholls said in his Betfair column: “Nothing should be read into the fact that Noel rides what was probably our stable star last season. He has ridden Conti before, in fact when winning on him in the two-and-a-half-mile hurdle at Ascot three years ago that Zarkandar goes for on Saturday, as well as a Persian War.
“It simply makes sense for our number one jockey to go to Ascot to ride two of our best horses in Zarkandar – who Daryl obviously knows so well having won on him four times, including the Triumph – and Al Ferof, who he has ridden a lot at home in his comeback from injury.”
David Pipe confirmed talented grey Dynaste is likely to start his campaign in the Haydock showpiece.
A winner of four of his five starts over fences last season, the seven-year-old has already bypassed potential engagements at Wetherby and Cheltenham in recent weeks.
Pipe said: “Hopefully, all being well, the plan will be to run him in the Betfair. He’s in good form and three miles round Haydock should be ideal for him.”
Colin Tizzard’s stable star Cue Card is set to step back up in distance after finishing third in the Haldon Gold Cup.
There are two potential Irish raiders in Gordon Elliott’s JNwine.com Champion Chase winner Roi Du Mee and the Willie Mullins-trained Prince De Beauchene, who finished third in the same Down Royal race.
Elliott said: “The plan is for Roi Du Mee to go to Haydock on Saturday. He’s been in good form since Down Royal.”
With temperatures set to dip below freezing later in the week, Haydock’s clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright will consider deploying frost covers, if the need arises.
Betfair Chase, Paddy Power bet: 2-1 Bobs Worth, 5-2 Silviniaco Conti, 11-2 Dynaste, 7-1 Cue Card, 9-1 Tidal Bay, 10-1 Long Run, 16-1 Roi Du Mee, The Giant Bolster, 20-1 Prince Du Beauchene, 33-1 Cloudy Too.
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