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Champions all on course

Title holders all right on track for the Festival

Last Updated: 15/02/12 12:05pm

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Long Run and Kauto Star: Among 26 in the Gold Cup

Long Run and Kauto Star: Among 26 in the Gold Cup

Sky Bet

The Festival 2012 is now under a month away and the countdown intensifies with the publication of the acceptors for the five non-novice championship contests following the February 14 scratchings deadline.

In the £500,000 Grade One Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, the 2011 scorer Long Run and Kauto Star, the winner in 2007 and 2009, feature among 26 horses going forward.

Interestingly, on weight-adjusted Timeform ratings Long Run (193) is rated one pound superior to Kauto Star (192), despite Paul Nicholls' veteran getting the better of his younger rival on two occasions already this season in the Betfair Chase and the William Hill King George VI Chase.

The pair appear to have the race between them, with the next best horse according to Timeform being Betfair Chase third Weird Al on 182. The Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup is the highlight of Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16 at Cheltenham.

The defending champion in the £320,000 Grade One sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase, which has 14 remaining entries, is Sizing Europe.

According to Timeform, the Irish raider is also in pole position to successfully defend his crown with a rating of 183, four pounds clear of Somersby (179), successful in the Grade One Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot last month.

The 2010 sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Big Zeb is on 176, while last year's Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase runner-up Finian's Rainbow is rated 177. The sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase is the highlight of Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14.

Fine record

Albertas Run boasts a fabulous record at The Festival, having taken the RSA Chase in 2008 as well as the last two renewals of the Grade One Ryanair Chase and he is one of 29 acceptors for the two mile, five furlong contest.

The 11-year-old's weight-adjusted Timeform rating of 175, would suggest he has work to do to overcome Riverside Theatre (182), Somersby (179), last year's Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase victor Captain Chris (177) and Medermit (176), who all have the Ryanair Chase as an option.

The £260,000 Grade One Ryanair Chase takes place on St Patrick's Thursday, March 15.

The 20 remaining contenders for the £370,000 Grade One Stan James Champion Hurdle are headed by the 2011 victor Hurricane Fly, who is rated 185 by Timeform.

His closest current pursuer on weight-adjusted Timeform ratings is last year's runner-up Peddlers Cross (183), although his trainer Donald McCain has made clear that the seven-year-old has the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase as his preferred target at The Festival.

The 2010 Stan James Champion Hurdle victor Binocular is currently rated third best with Timeform on 178.

Big Buck's created history in 2011 when becoming the first horse to win three consecutive renewals of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and the amazing nine-year-old is one of 23 acceptors for the £260,000 Grade One Ladbrokes World Hurdle, which takes place on St Patrick's Thursday, March 15.

With a current weight-adjusted Timeform rating of 187+, he is rated five pounds clear of Oscar Whisky (182), who finished third in last year's Stan James Champion Hurdle but has only been left in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle this time around.

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