Bookies believe Fry can get more out of Kyle in Prestbury Park puzzle

BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase | Grade 3 | 2m4½f | ITV/RUK

At the top of the weights and the top of the betting for the season's first great handicap is Kylemore Lough. If the horse had not moved home that would probably not be the case.

That is in no way a slur on Kerry Lee, who has done tremendously well since launching her training career and produced Kylemore Lough to land a Grade 1 race in March 2016.

However, after ending last season without a win, the eight-year-old joined Harry Fry in May, not long after which this contest was targeted.

The respect in which bookmakers and punters hold Fry has made the trainer's new recruit the perceived horse to beat, but the trainer himself admits he cannot know if Noel Fehily's mount is likely to leave his 154 rating well behind.

“He's a high-class individual with form in the book - if he can replicate that form he should be there or thereabouts," said Fry.

"Sometimes a change of scenery can bring about a bit of improvement as well. There’s no point me talking about it, though. It’s up to him to do the talking.

"What he's doing at home is pleasing us. That’s all we can go on. He's ticking all the boxes."

Romain De Senam has won two weaker races. Will this be too tough?

Not according to Paul Nicholls, who seeks his third win in the last six runnings of this famous handicap.

An easy success at Chepstow last month was followed by a more workmanlike victory at Stratford. He now needs to do more under Harry Cobden, but the former champion trainer is upbeat.

"You mustn't forget he's only five," said Nicholls. "He's progressive as well, and that's what you need in this race. He isn't at all exposed.

"Romain De Senam didn't run at the festival last season as he was balloted out, but he was only just touched off in the Fred Winter the year before.

"He won really well at Chepstow two starts ago, then I had to run him back quickly off a penalty. There's a lot in his favour, including that he loves a fast-run race."

Nicholls also fields last month's Cheltenham second Le Prezien, the only runner bidding to give JP McManus a first win in this race.

"Le Prezien ran very well over two miles last time," said Nicholls. "That was a bit sharp for him but he jumped well. That's the key to his chance again."

Double Treasure has improved by 2lb - can he possibly improve even more?

Jamie Snowden is adamant he can, answering: "Yes. Definitely."

Since losing his maiden tag at Chepstow in April, Double Treasure has completed a four-timer, most recently landing a novice chase at Cheltenham's October meeting. At Chepstow he won off 108. On this occasion he must defy 150, but Snowden believes that need not be the limit of his rise.

"He's only a young horse and full of confidence," said the Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer. "His work is getting better and better, so there's no reason to believe he can't improve further.

"His progress hasn't surprised me but what did surprise me was the way he won last time. He was meeting horses rated around 150 off level weights, so we didn't necessarily expect to win.

"The grand plan was he'd run a nice race there, finish second or third and come here off bottom weight. The task now is slightly trickier but there's no point being in this game if you're not a pessimistic optimist!"

If Ballyalton triumphs he will become the first horse aged ten or older to win since Clear Cut captured what was then the Mackeson in 1975.

The senior stats do not end there. Only one of the last 14 winners was older than eight, that break with tradition being last season's victor Taquin Du Seuil.

Ballyalton is, however, not your normal ten-year-old.

He has had only six runs over fences, on one of which he won the Cheltenham Festival's novices' handicap in 2016. More recently, he shaped encouragingly over hurdles, while last Saturday his red-hot trainer Ian Williams bagged both the Badger Ales Chase and November Handicap.

"We’ve always had this race in mind for him," said Williams. "He's enjoyed a trouble-free preparation and we’re hoping for a big run."

There has been only one Irish-trained winner of this race since 1980 - Tranquil Sea in 2009 – but Tully East has been prominent in the market all week and it would not be a major surprise were he to start favourite.

But what of his chance? Well certainly his lung-opener over hurdles last month should have put him right, and as a Cheltenham Festival winner this year – the race Ballyalton had won 12 months before - we know he acts well here.

Trainer Alan Fleming said on Friday: "All is A1 with him. He travelled over well and had a canter on the course this morning. He was a course and distance winner at the festival last season and we've been very happy with him since his run over hurdles last month. He's all set."

What they say

Colin Tizzard, trainer of Viconte Du Noyer
He won over three miles and three furlongs last year but it looked as if this would be his trip at Punchestown. He looks really well and I’m expecting a big run.

Nicky Henderson, trainer of Days Of Heaven and Theinval
Days Of Heaven has got to nearly 150 and that's a hard mark for him to play off. We'll be putting him away shortly as he's had quite a busy summer. Theinval was an unlucky horse last season. This is his trip.

Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Foxtail Hill and Spalsh Of Ginge
Foxtail Hill was pretty good last time and I was delighted with the win over half a mile too short for him. Splash Of Ginge was seventh in the race two years ago and seems in better form now.

David Pipe, trainer of Starchitect
It's a wide open race and he deserves to take his chance. He battled on well last time and won't mind the hustle and bustle, and has good form round the track. He might not have many 1s against his name but he's been competing at the top level in fiercely competitive handicaps.  

Evan Williams, trainer of Aqua Dude
We were never really happy with him last season, when he was very in and out. He fairly bolted up last time, so I thought 'what the hell, let's give it a crack'. He may not be good enough but he's in great form and deserves his chance.

Venetia Williams, trainer of Plaisir D'Amour
She improved during the course of last season. She's one of the few of ours I'm happy to run on good ground, and she's happier at trips around two and a half miles.

Nicky Richards, trainer of Guitar Pete
He was fairly impressive at Wetherby last time. We were going to freshen him up for the big handicap at the December meeting but he's been bucking and squealing at home. He's super fit and super happy. From the right end of the handicap I think he'll be in the mix.