Kylemorre seeks Gold Cup crown
National Hunt racing returns to Cheltenham with a vengeance this weekend and day two, BetVictor Gold Cup Day, of The November Meeting 2017 sees a plethora of Jump racing stars in action at Prestbury Park.
The feature race, the G3 BetVictor Gold Cup (2.25pm) has attracted a stellar field of 18 for the extended two and a half-mile contest. The Harry Fry-trained Kylemore Lough heads the betting with the sponsors and the eight-year-old son of Revoque, a G1 winner in March 2016 for Kerry Lee, has his first run for the Dorset-based handler in the event. Other notable runners include Foxtail Hill and Le Prezien, first and second in the Randox Health Handicap Chase at the Showcase Meeting in October, as well as Cheltenham Festival winners Ballyalton (2016 Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase), trained by Ian Williams and Alan Fleming's Tully East (2017 Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase) from Ireland.
The G2 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial (12.40pm) begins proceedings and was won last year by the unbeaten Philip Hobbs-trained Defi Du Seuil, who subsequently landed the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Hobbs relies this time around on French import Gumball, who is unbeaten in two starts in Britain and bids to emulate his stable companion under Richard Johnson. The list of dangers are headed by Joseph O'Brien's Apparition and Emmanuel Clayeux's French raider Eh Georges.
The G3 mallardjewellers.com Novices' Chase (1.15pm) over an extended three miles, has a small but select field of three runners with Nigel Twiston-Davies' impressive 13-length Exeter winner Ballyoptic taking on Paul Nicholls' Black Corton, successful in his last four starts under Bryony Frost, and Colin Tizzard's West Approach, who is one from one over fences.
2017 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup second Minella Rocco bids to get his season back on track in the G3 BetVictor.com Handicap Chase (1.50pm). The top-weight, trained by Jonjo O'Neill and ridden by Barry Geraghty, was fourth in the G3 Irish Daily Star Chase at Punchestown on his reappearance last month and faces eight rivals in the extended three miles and three furlongs contest. They include Paul Nicholls' dual Scottish Grand National winner Vicente and Philip Hobbs' progressive Three Faces West.
Nicky Henderson's Thomas Campbell, a two and a quarter-length winner at The Showcase Meeting over course and distance last month, bids to follow up at The November Meeting in the Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle (3.00pm). A field of nine goes to post for the extended three miles and one furlong contest, including David Pipe's Newbury winner Dell' Arca.
The ultra-competitive Martin & Co Jewellers Intermediate Handicap Hurdle (3.30pm) has attracted 17 runners for the extended two miles and five furlong event which includes local trainer Ben Pauling's Red Indian, a half-length second at Warwick in May, and Tom George's Stamp Your Feet, second to the classy Bags Groove at Aintree last time out.
The concluding Experience The Theatre At The Festival Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (4.00pm) has 12 runners for the extended two mile event. The field is headed by Warren Greatrex's Dory, a four-year-old daughter of Westerner, who scored by seven lengths on her debut and Irish raider Holding Pattern, trained by Jessica Harrington, a seven length third on her latest start at Down Royal.
Course specialist The New One heads a 16-strong field for the Grade Three Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, worth £100,000, at Cheltenham on Sunday, where he will be looking to make it seven victories in total at Prestbury Park.
The nine-year-old carries top-weight of 11st 12lb for local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies and champion jockey Richard Johnson takes the mount for the first time since the pair teamed up to win the Grade Two International Hurdle just under a year ago.
The top-weight has been chalked up at 16/1 by the race sponsor, which makes Jenkins, at the other end of the handicap with 10st, the 9/2 favourite following sustained support for Nicky Henderson's runner earlier this week.
The five-year-old has only had five career starts to date and is the champion trainer's only runner in a race he has yet to win in its current guise. David Bass, successful twice in three rides on Jenkins, has the mount again.
Dan Skelton, who trained North Hill Harvey to win this race 12 months ago, saddles the 6/1 second-favourite Mohaayed, while the admirable London Prize, who landed last weekend's Grade Two Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton, is next in the market at 9/1.
Harry Fry, who does so well with his hurdle runners at this meeting, is represented by 10/1 shot Misterton, while Alan King runs recent Listed winner Elgin (12/1), who won well at Ascot two weeks' ago.
Joseph O'Brien, who recorded his biggest training success to date when Rekindling won the Melbourne Cup earlier this month, is double-handed in Sunday's showpiece, with the 2016 JCB Triumph Hurdle winner Ivanovich Gorbatov (16/1) lining up alongside stablemate Tigris River (12/1), who won the Galway Hurdle in August.
Brian Ellison's Nietzche is a 14/1 shot with King's other runner, William H Bonney, currently the same price. Chesterfield, the mount of seven-pound claimer Daniel Sansom, is a 16/1 chance, as is Flying Tiger, trained by Nick Williams.
Paul Nicholls, who has won this race three times (Rigmarole in 2003, Brampour in 2011 and Old Guard in 2015), trains both 16/1 shot Amour De Nuit and previous winner Old Guard (25/1). John Quinn's Project Bluebook and the Thomas Mullins-trained Top Othe Ra make up the 16-strong field.