Massive entry of 85 received for National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham

Last Updated: 24/01/13 12:32pm

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Back In Focus: Four-mile option at the Cheltenham Festival

Back In Focus: Four-mile option at the Cheltenham Festival

Sky Bet

Harry Topper, the horse Kim Bailey believes could be the best he has trained since Gold Cup winner Master Oats, heads the 85 entries unveiled on Thursday for the National Hunt Chase.

The four-mile contest, restricted to amateur riders, has attracted a bumper possible line-up including Back In Focus and Boston Bob, two of six strong-looking entries from the powerful yard of Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins.

Last weekend's Naas winner Tofino Bay is among three entries from Dessie Hughes, while Gordon Elliott, who sent out Chicago Grey to win this race in 2011, has another previous Festival winner Carlito Brigante among his list of five possibles.

Interestingly, Nicky Henderson - who has such strength among his team at shorter trips - doesn't have a single entry in the race, but trainers' title rival Paul Nicholls has four, including Rocky Creek and Sire Collonges who are both also entered in the RSA Chase.

David Pipe has seven entries, while Alan King has put in recent Classic Chase runner-up Godsmejudge.

Perhaps the most significant absentee is Court In Motion, who had been as short as 16/1 for the contest.

Trained by Emma Lavelle, he's suffered a setback and will miss the Festival, as the trainer confirmed.

She said: "He's just given himself a little bit of a knock, it's something minor, but it's just come at the wrong time of year.

"If he had done it in November or even early December, it wouldn't have been a worry and we could have had him ready in time for Cheltenham.

"We don't want to rush him, though, and then find we miss the rest of the season so we will wait for Aintree and Punchestown with him.

"Realistically, he won't be ready for Cheltenham.

"We'll have a look at Aintree. Around a sharper track like that, I think we will be looking a three miles, so he could go for a novice or we might have a look at a handicap."

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