Champion trainer Nicky Henderson has tipped the famous uphill run-in at Cheltenham to boost the chances of the battling Bobs Worth making history at the Festival.
His champion will bid to become the eighth horse to win the Gold Cup more than once and extend his unbeaten record at Prestbury Park to six races, including four at the showpiece meeting.
Henderson said Bobs Worth was in fine fettle after winning the Lexus Chase under regular rider Barry Geraghty at Leopardstown last time out, but he is under no illusions about the task facing him on Friday, March 14.
“It’s hard to defend the Gold Cup,” he said.
“It’s hard to win it in the first place and it’s probably even harder to defend, though I don’t see why because it’s the same race.
“He’s in good shape and we’ll probably go to Newbury Racecourse on Sunday and just have a little spin around there like he did last year.
“The Lexus was fantastic and it was a good performance. On top of that he has got the hill at Cheltenham that we know he loves.
“He has been there five times and he’s never been beaten on it, so that is in his favour.
“Cheltenham is a better track than Leopardstown is for him, but that was a good performance at Leopardstown.
“It was just great to see him do what he does best and put his head down.
“You’ll never see a horse put his head down and fight for you like him. He loves battles.
“It would be fantastic if he could win the Gold Cup again because it’s the race everyone wants to win.
“He was the best horse last year and he proved in Ireland that he’s back on track. We’ve got a lot to look forward to.”
Henderson rates Silviniaco Conti, trained by former champion trainer Paul Nicholls, as the main danger from England to Bobs Worth’s chances of emulating Easter Hero, Golden Miller, Cottage Rake, Arkle, L’Escargot, Best Mate and Kauto Star as multiple Gold Cup winners.
Silviniaco Conti was in front of Bobs Worth and appeared to be going at least equally as well when he fell three fences from home in last year’s Gold Cup.
Bobs Worth went on to chase down Long Run and Sir Des Champs with a powerful late finish in the home straight.
Silviniaco Conti finished in front of Bobs Worth when they were beaten by Cue Card at Haydock in November, and he landed the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Henderson said: “One has to say that Silviniaco Conti would have been first or second last year.
“He’s our main English horse to beat, definitely, and there are plenty in Ireland as well.
“Silviniaco Conti was going well last year and he was just in front of us.
“Even in those battles no one wants anyone else to fall, and we were lucky not to get brought down.
“The ‘game’ had happened a little bit early in front and it was going to come from behind, and it did.
“For one moment we were off the bridle and not travelling, but they had suddenly injected some pace into the race, probably a little bit earlier than they might have done.
“But if they do the same again this year and we win again, that’s fine.”