Nicky Henderson has pinpointed Silviniaco Conti and Last Instalment as dangers to Bobs Worth when his star bids to retain his Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup crown next month.
The nine-year-old, who is unbeaten in five visits to Prestbury Park, left behind a very disappointing reappearance in the Betfair Chase by collecting the Lexus Chase over Christmas.
The nine-year-old is set to be joined by a high-class quintet of stablemates at Newbury on Sunday as he builds towards the defence of his crown.
It is one of Henderson’s traditions to take a handful of Festival contenders to his local course, and the exercise is likely to take place near dawn with his jockey Barry Geraghty required back in Ireland during the afternoon.
“Bobs Worth will go to Newbury on Sunday with Captain Cutter, Triolo D’Alene, Royal Boy, Ma Filleule and I’m toying with Vaniteux,” said Henderson.
“He worked very well this morning and will have a canter around Newbury.
“The Gold Cup is very open. By and large it’s the same faces, although the horse who won the other day (Last Instalment) is interesting and beat First Lieutenant by further than we did.
“Silviniaco Conti is the obvious horse. He would have been close if he hadn’t fallen last year. With the Irish, I think we know where we are with them.
“Yes, Silviniaco Conti beat us at Haydock, but we’re better than that.
“You know if he’s in contention as they run to the second-last, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll finish his race off.”
Others from what could be more than 30 Cheltenham runners, including JLT Novices’ Chase contender Oscar Whisky and one of Henderson’s remaining BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase hopes Captain Conan will head instead to Kempton for a Polytrack gallop on Friday morning.
Triolo D’Alene, who has not been risked on soft ground since winning the Hennessy, also has a Gold Cup entry but is unlikely to take it.
Henderson said: “The Grand National is his prime objective. He needs a run but has to go to Cheltenham now. I’d like him to have the least aggressive race and that might be the Byrne Group Plate.”
Henderson meanwhile believes the strength of this year’s Stan James Champion Hurdle is so great My Tent Or Yours could perform to his peak and still finish out of the places.
Unbeaten in two senior starts, the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle, JP McManus’ classy gelding avoided any of the soft ground trials and took an unconventional route to the Festival by winning a jumpers’ bumper at Kempton a week last Sunday.
McManus’ retained jockey Tony McCoy has now nailed his colours to My Tent Or Yours, rather than the owners other challenger, Jezki.
“I’m very happy with him, and Kempton was a job perfectly executed,” said Henderson.
Looking at the Champion, for which he is 4-1 third-favourite with William Hill behind The New One and dual winner Hurricane Fly, the trainer said: “You could finish fifth and run the race of your life.
“There’s The New One and don’t underestimate Melodic Rendezvous. Then there’s obviously Ireland. I’ve a sneaking feeling about Our Conor, especially the way he won the Triumph last year, and then there’s Willie Mullins.
“You’ve got to start with Hurricane Fly, but it depends what he runs – he could run Annie Power as well.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved