Gold Cup rivals and stablemates Kauto Star and Denman are set to clash once again — but this year Kauto Star’s owner, Clive Smith, believes the tables will be turned.

The 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup was one of the most highly anticipated races ever, with the 2007 winner Kauto Star taking on the Hennessy Gold Cup-winning Denman — both trained by Paul Nicholls.

Denman emerged victorious, winning by 7 lengths, but this year Mr Smith thinks Kauto Star is back at his best and with the right ground says the horse has every chance.

Mr Smith said: “I was ecstatic about Kauto Star’s victory at Kempton [in the King George VI] and it was a brilliant performance. Paul and I have decided that he will now go straight to The Festival. He rattled up six victories when he took the totesport Gold Cup in 2007 but he’s got a few more miles on the clock now and he possibly likes to put in a performance a bit less frequently these days.

“We have to make sure the horse is spot on for Cheltenham and keeping him fresh for March seems the best way forward.

“If we get the right going, then I think we have every chance of beating Denman. I like to think of it as home and away – it was like a home fixture for Denman last season because he got his favoured ground while Kauto Star couldn’t get going in it. That’s not to take anything from Denman because I thought he was superb.”

Kauto Star, who defeated Exotic Dancer by 2 ½ lengths in 2007, will be bidding to become the first horse to win non-consecutive runnings of the race.

The pair are among 38 horses entered into National Hunt racing’s blue riband on 13 March.

Among Nicholl’s 8 entries are last year’s third Neptune Collonges, Star De Mohaison and Big Bucks.

Other leading contenders entered include David Pipe’s Our Vic, Howard Johnson’s Tidal Bay, Jonjo O’Neill’s Albertas Run, Nicky Henderson’s Barbers Shop and Nigel Twiston-Davies’s Imperial Commander.

And there are 8 strong Irish entries — including 2006 winner War Of Attrition, Grand National 3rd Snowy Morning and Welsh National winner Notre Pere.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup will be run at 3.20pm on Friday 13 March.