Festival winners More Of That and Tiger Roll among entries for day one of The International
Cheltenham's final meeting of 2017 gets underway next Friday, December 15, with a seven-race card on day one of The International.
The action includes the £35,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase (3.05pm), which has 16 entries headed by the 2014 Stayers' Hurdle winner More Of That (Jonjo O'Neill), who was sixth in this year's Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup at The Festival.
The three mile, six furlong contest is the final fixture in the Crystal Cup European Cross Country Challenge. French handler Patrice Quinton, who holds a commanding lead in the leading trainer standings, has entered Brise De Kerser, successful at Merano, Italy, in September.
Further French representation could be provided by Vicomte Du Seuil (Emmanuel Clayeux), runner-up in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at The November Meeting, and Kapville (Etienne & Gregoire Leenders).
Seven Irish-trained contenders include Tiger Roll (Gordon Elliott), a dual winner at The Festival including this year's G2 JT McNamara National Hunt Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase.
Elliott has also entered Bless The Wings, second in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at The Festival in March, while a trio of Enda Bolger-trained entries are headed by course winners Josies Orders and Cantlow.
Kingswell Theatre made all of running to gamely beat Vicomte Du Seuil at The November Meeting and the Michael Scudamore-trained eight-year-old will bid to defy a 6lb rise in the ratings.
Herefordshire-based Scudamore commented: "Kingswell Theatre came out of his victory last month really well and will head back to Cheltenham next week for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase.
"He has to improve, having gone up a bit in the weights, but he seems to be in really good order and we are very happy with him.
"We didn't quite expect him to win last time but we did think that he would run a good race. He took to the Cross Country Course really well at The Festival in March and, if you took that performance off level weights, he actually ran a really good race that day.
"It was also his first run over the fences in March and, considering how well he took to them that day and how he schooled over them subsequently, we thought he would run well.
"He seems to love the place and coming back for The Festival after next week is at the back of our minds."
Friday's most valuable contest is the £45,000 G3 December Handicap Chase (2.30pm) and 15 entries for the three and a quarter-mile contest include Shantou Flyer (Richard Hobson), who won the G3 BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase on New Year's Day.
G1-winning hurdler Ptit Zig, who has been declared for the G2 Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on Sunday, is one of three Paul Nicholls-trained entries, while Exeter winner Wotzizname (Harry Fry), Alvarado (Fergal O'Brien) and What A Moment (David Pipe), victorious in the Markel Insurance Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase at The November Meeting, could also line up.
Mysteree (Michael Scudamore) captured the Eider Chase at Newcastle last season before going on to finish second in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter and the nine-year-old could make his seasonal return at Cheltenham, although a tilt at the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow is on the cards for the 138-rated chaser.
Scudamore added: "The December Handicap Chase is Plan B for Mysteree and we gave him an entry in case he looks in danger of missing the cut for the Welsh National.
"He has done really well over the summer and I am very happy with him. We gave him a really nice time to get over his exploits last season and Chepstow has been the plan all the time.
"He has won first time out for the past three seasons, so isn't a horse that is too difficult to get straight and we have had a good, clear run with him."
Diese Des Bieffes (Nicky Henderson), who is unbeaten in two appearances over hurdles, features among 22 entries for the £12,000 British Stallion Studs EBF Novices' Hurdle (12.10pm) over two miles and a furlong.
Mr Big Shot (David Pipe) has also made a faultless start to his hurdling career and the six-year-old could take on seasoned opposition including Jenkins (Nicky Henderson) and William H Bonney (Alan King) in the two-mile, one furlong £12,000 Catesby Handicap Hurdle (1.20pm, 26 entries).
Recent Warwick scorer Sparkling River (Henry Oliver) heads 17 entries for the CF Roberts Electrical & Mechanical Services Mares' Handicap Chase (2m 5f, 1.55pm), which could also feature Timeforwest (Jonjo O'Neill), who runs in the colours of The Jockey Club Ownership Cheltenham & South West Syndicate.
The 23 contenders for the closing £22,000 Citipost Handicap Hurdle (3m, 3.40pm) include Anteros (Sophie Leech) runner-up in the Listed Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle at The November Meeting.
The £25,000 Unicoin Group Novices' Chase (12.45pm) over an extended three miles and a furlong, has re-opened for entries until 11am on Sunday, December 10.
Day two of The International on Saturday, December 16, also features a seven-race card headlined by the £130,000 G2 Unibet International Hurdle and the £120,000 G3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.