Best Mate is as short as 4-6 favourite to become only the fourth horse to win a third Cheltenham Gold Cup following publication of the 32 entries for chasing's Blue Riband yesterday. As he attempts to follow in the hoofprints of Golden Miller, Cottage Rake and Arkle there is a mixed bag of opportunists standing in his path, from the aspiring young gun Keen Leader, who is quoted at 8-1, to the rather less threatening Venn Ottery, who is regarded by the bookmakers as a 1,000-1 shot.
Commanche Court and Truckers Tavern, runners-up to Best Mate in the last two Gold Cups, have been entered again, while Martin Pipe's team of five is headed by his star novice Therealbandit. In contrast, his West Country rival Paul Nicholls has just two entries, Sleeping Night and Venn Ottery, who has been moved to the season's leading jumps trainer by the permit-holder Oliver Carter.
There is a nine-strong challenge from Ireland, headed by Beef Or Salmon, a third-fence faller last year, while the 12-year-old Florida Pearl will be put through his paces at Fairyhouse on Sunday in preparation for his fourth Gold Cup attempt.
CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP (18 March) Tote: 8-11 Best Mate, 7-1 Keen Leader,10-1 Kingscliff, 14-1 Beef Or Salmon, Sir Rembrandt, Truckers Tavern, 16-1 Therealbandit, 20-1 First Gold, Jair Du Cochet, 25-1 Artic Jack, Fondmort, Harbour Pilot, 33-1 Commanche Court, Irish Hussar, La Landiere, Valley Henry, 50-1 Chives, Rince Ri, What's Up Boys, 66-1 Alexander Banquet, Cyfor Malta, Florida Pearl, Rule Supreme, Sleeping Night, 100-1 Macs Gildoran, Shardam, Shooting Light, Toto Toscato, 150-1 Jenniferjo, You're Agoodun, 1,000-1 Venn Ottery.Reuse content