Cheltenham Festival Betting 2006

Last year's winner Kicking King may be missing, but the 2006 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup promises to be as open as it has ever been with a record 64 entries revealed on Monday, beating the previous highest total of 49 set in 2003.

Kingscliff is currently desputing favouritism with Beef or Salmon, as both are priced at best-price 6-1.

There are many established stars entered, among them recent Lexus Chase winner Beef Or Salmon, Betfair Chase hero Kingscliff, 2005 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup second Take The Stand, 2004 Coral Welsh National winner Silver Birch and Monkerhostin, who came within a whisker of catching Kicking King in the Stan James King George VI Chase last month.

Fondmort, winner of the Unicoin Homes Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, Peterborough Chase scorer Impek, Lexus Chase runner-up War Of Attrition, last season's John Smith's Grand National hero Hedgehunter and Sir Rembrandt, who has made the Gold Cup frame for the past two seasons, are among others already proven at the highest level.

The now 11-year-old Hors La Loi III, winner of the 2002 Smurfit Champion Hurdle, is one of several past Festival scorers engaged with others including 2004 Ladbrokes World Hurdle hero Iris's Gift, One Knight, winner of the 2003 Royal & SunAlliance Chase, Fundamentalist, who took the 2004 Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle, last season's Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase hero King Harald, 2005 National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup winner Another Rum, 2004 Mildmay Of Flete Challenge Cup scorer Tikram and Our Armageddon, who captured that year's Cathcart Challenge Cup (now the Ryanair Chase).

Martin Pipe's five entries include Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Our Vic, 2004 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup hero Celestial Gold, who is set to make his seasonal comeback in the Letheby & Christopher Chase at Cheltenham on January 28, Iznogoud, Rowland Meyrick Chase winner Therealbandit and Joacci, who looked a potential star when taking the Cheltenham Racing Handicap Chase on New Year's Day.

Among several top novices entered are Darkness, winner of Sandown's Feltham Novices' Chase, The Listener, who captured Cheltenham's Unicoin Homes Dipper Novices' Chase on January 1, the Tom George-trained Idle Talk, Crozan, a winner at Cheltenham in November, and the Howard Johnson-trained Bewleys Berry, while Neptune Collonges, a smart chaser in France who has been

campaigned over hurdles since joining Paul Nicholls, is another entry.

Edward Gillespie, Cheltenham's Managing Director, said today: "While we are obviously sad that the last two totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup winners will not be bidding to win the contest again in 2006, the race continues to be the one prize that every owner and trainer dreams of winning, as demonstrated by this year's record 64-strong entry."