Tidal Bay tops Hennessy field
Paul Nicholls' Lexus hero Tidal Bay is one of the 16 entries in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 9.
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Galvanised by Ruby Walsh to come home first in a dramatic finish to the Christmas highlight over course and distance, Tidal Bay could face a rematch with two of the other three horses involved in the conclusion.
Peter Casey's popular Flemenstar (third) and Sir Des Champs (fourth) have both been entered, with the latter's trainer Willie Mullins having won the last two renewals of Irish jumping's flagship race, and eight in total.
He has put in Quel Esprit too, while Henry de Bromhead's Sizing Europe has been given an entry as the trainer assesses his options.
Nicholls has back-up in jnwine.com Champion Chase winner Kauto Stone with Jonjo O'Neill giving the option for Ryanair star Albertas Run.
Other notable Irish contenders are Joncol, China Rock, Roi Du Mee, Seabass, Prince De Beauchene and Bog Warrior.
A mouthwatering clash between last season's first and second from Cheltenham's Champion Bumper could be on the cards in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle on the same card.
The Willie Mullins-trained Champagne Fever and John Ferguson's New Year's Eve fought out the finish last March and both have shown promise over hurdles.
However, not everything has gone to plan with Champagne Fever who returned a sick horse after his last run which saw him drift in the betting for Cheltenham's novices' hurdles.
New Year's Eve has only run the once but ran a perfectly respectable second to the classy River Maigue at Kempton. Ferguson has also entered Whispering Gallery, a top-class horse from the level who won his hurdling debut recently.
Mullins has another strong contender, however, in the shape of Pont Alexandre who was a very impressive winner on his first start for the yard in Grade One company at Navan.
Jeremy Scott's Melodic Rendezvous, a good winner of the Tolworth Hurdle, is another possible British runner.