The first four home in the BetVictor Gold Cup - Splash Of Ginge, Starchitect, Le Prezien and Ballyalton - are among 36 entries for the £120,000 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham on the second day of The International, Saturday, December 16.
The prestigious G3 handicap chase, run over nearly two miles and five furlongs on the New Course at Cheltenham, carries an increased prize fund this year, up £20,000 on the 2016 value of £100,000.
From left to right, Ballyalton. Starchitect and Splash Of Ginge at the last in the Betvictor Gold Cup, photo Liesl King
Splash Of Ginge provided trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies with a fourth success in the £160,000 BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham on November 18. The 25/1 outsider relished the testing conditions on the Old Course as he held Starchitect (David Pipe) by a neck, with Le Prezien (Paul Nicholls) and Ballyalton (Ian Williams) in third and fourth respectively.
Exotic Dancer in 2006 is the latest horse to complete the BetVictor Gold Cup-Caspian Caviar Gold Cup double in the same season, following on from Pegwell Bay (1988) and Senor El Betrutti (1997).
Le Prezien's trainer Paul Nicholls, who took the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup last year with Frodon, is the most successful handler in the history of the race with four wins. His entries are completed by Clan Des Obeaux, winner of a graduation chase at Haydock Park last weekend, Romain De Senam and Bouvreuil.
Champion trainer Nicky Henderson has five entries to choose from, more than any other handler, including Gold Present who was second behind Tully East in the Listed Close Brothers' Novices' Handicap Chase at The Festival in March. He has won the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup three times.
Nine-year-old On Tour is one of two contenders for Evan Williams, having been a decisive three-length winner of a valuable two and a half mile handicap chase at Aintree on November 11.
Stablemate King's Odyssey, successful over the course on distance on Festival Trials Day in January, 2016, was travelling strongly when falling at the 12th fence in last year's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and is now 7lb lower in the handicap with a rating of 140. The eight-year-old finished third, beaten two lengths, on his return in a two-mile graduation chase at Carlisle on November 13.
Williams, who is based in the Vale of Glamorgan, said: "It all depends on the ground with King's Odyssey and he could go for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, provided there is plenty of cut.
"The way the ground was at the last meeting, if they get a drop more rain between now and then, you would hope the ground will be suitable. He is in at Newbury this weekend, but it looks like they are going to have a dry week.
"It was a positive comeback from King's Odyssey at Carlisle. The Cheltenham Festival wasn't good [14th in Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase] to us, so it was good to get a nice run under his belt.
"He has always promised to win a nice race, and we think perhaps he is one of those horses that we should have won a nice race with already.
"On Tour is a funny old horse because he is another who has promised to win a nice race and thankfully we were able to win a good pot at Aintree.
"It might be that we have won our pot now, but he deserves to be in the all big two and a half mile handicaps like the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup because there is such good prize money on offer and he has shown that he can run well in those types of races.
"I think he is a bit more flexible in regards to ground. It was not that soft in Aintree and more importantly for him is how things fall because he is a very hot and cold customer. On his day, he is a nice horse, but it has to be on his day."
Waiting Patiently (Malcolm Jefferson) is reportedly on course for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup after extending his unbeaten record over fences to four in the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle on November 5.
Other high-profile entries include G1 winner Kylemore Lough, who disappointed on his first start for Harry Fry when favourite for the BetVictor Gold Cup, and recent G3 Sodexo Gold Cup scorer Go Conquer (Jonjo O'Neill).
Ireland's champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins accounts for all three of the entries from across the Irish Sea, this coming weekend's Ladbrokes Trophy favourite Total Recall, Acapella Bourgeois and Childrens List.
Weights for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup will be published at noon on Wednesday, December 6.