NICKY Henderson admits favourite Bobs Worth needs to overcome a lack of experience to win a "wide open" Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.
Henderson, the top trainer of all time at the showpiece meeting, plans to run both Bobs Worth and 2011 winner Long Run in the £550,000 blue riband event on March 15.
The duo are part of Henderson's powerful team of more than 30 horses heading to the Festival, including Queen Mother Champion Chase hot favourite Sprinter Sacre, Oscar Whisky and Binocular.
Bobs Worth heads the Gold Cup betting after winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in December – his only race so far this season and his third victory from five races over fences.
Henderson said he would have preferred the two-time Festival winner – unbeaten in four races at Prestbury Park – to have had another run ahead of the biggest test of his career so far.
His plans to run him in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham, in which Cape Tribulation beat Nigel Twiston-Davies' 2010 Gold Cup hero Imperial Commander in testing ground, were shelved after tests showed Bobs Worth was not 100 per cent.
"I would have liked to have run Bobs Worth again after the Hennessy but it doesn't mean he can't do it," he said.
"He went straight into the Hennessy and he did take a blow there, so we're mindful of that, but he'll be straighter than he was in the Hennessy.
"He probably does have to improve again.
"He's still the baby and he lacks experience – I thought he did going into the RSA last year – but he loves Cheltenham.
"He's won a novice chase, the RSA and a Hennessy and this is where we find out what he is.
"He's not reached the superstar status of, say Sprinter Sacre, purely because he hasn't had the opportunity to do so.
"Yes he was the best staying novice of last year, and he didn't have an easy year last year and it hasn't actually been that easy this year, obviously. Otherwise I would have run him in the meantime. But the other thing you would say is that day at Cheltenham we missed, the way the ground was we all agreed at the end of the day that thank goodness we were forced to miss it.
"We may not have even run him if had been all right."
Henderson confirmed Long Run on course to join Bobs Worth in the Gold Cup after the King George VI Chase hero worked well with Stan James Champion Hurdle contender and 2010 winner Binocular.
He believes his two challengers are among a number of horses in the race with every chance of winning.
"I think it's very wide open and I don't think there is a stand-out horse," said the Berkshire trainer.
"There's nothing that's come out and made you think, 'Crikey, look at that.'
"So you've got to say Long Run and Bobs Worth have got as good a chance as any."
After speculation about their intended targets, Henderson confirmed Oscar Whisky will run in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and My Tent Or Yours in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.