Richards hoping Guitar Pete can play a better tune in Saturday's Gold Cup
There are 17 contenders going forward for the £120,000 G3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (1.55pm), the prestigious two mile and five furlong handicap chase staged on day two of The International at Cheltenham Racecourse, Saturday, December 16.
The first four horses home from the G3 BetVictor Gold Cup, staged over a similar distance at The November Meeting, all go forward for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
In last month's contest, Splash Of Ginge (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 10st 10lb) came out on top by a neck from Starchitect (David Pipe, 11st 5lb) with Le Prezien (Paul Nicholls, 11st 9lb) another two and a half lengths back in third and Ballyalton (Ian Williams, 11st) fourth.
If successful on Saturday, Splash Of Ginge would become the ninth horse to win both the BetVictor Gold Cup and the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup but only the fourth to achieve the double in the same season following Pegwell Bay (1988), Senor El Betrutti (1997) and Exotic Dancer (2006).
Splash Of Ginge's trainer could also be represented by Foxtail Hill (11st 4lb), who was eighth in the BetVictor Gold Cup but previously defeated Le Prezien by a neck in the two-mile Randox Health Handicap Chase at The Showcase on October 28.
Cumbrian handler Nicky Richards is hoping Guitar Pete (10st 5lb) has a clear run through the race after his performance in the BetVictor Gold Cup. The seven-year-old was detached in rear after being badly hampered at the first fence and did well to finish as a close he as did, 25 lengths behind the winner in ninth.
Guitar Pete was a live outsider for the BetVictor Gold Cup, having defeated Sametegal and Splash Of Ginge in a two and a half mile Listed handicap chase at Wetherby on November 3.
Richards said today: "Guitar Pete is in great fettle and will run in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
"The BetVictor Gold Cup was just a non-event for him really. He got badly hampered at the first and basically that was the end of the story.
"I am quite sure he can be competitive on Saturday. He is tough little horse and should run a good race, provided he gets that bit of luck you need in these big handicaps."
The weights are now headed by Clan Des Obeaux (Paul Nicholls, 11st 12lb), who was the comfortable winner of a graduation chase at Haydock Park on November 25.
Clan Des Obeaux's trainer Paul Nicholls is the most successful trainer in the history of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup with four victories. In addition to Clan Des Obeaux and Le Prezien, Nicholls could also be represented in Saturday's contest by Romain De Senam (11st 2lb), who was fifth in the BetVictor Gold Cup.
A horse looking to bounce back to form is Kylmore Lough (Harry Fry, 11st 11lb), who pulled-up when favourite for the BetVictor Gold Cup. Other interesting contenders include King's Odyssey (Evan Williams, 10st 11lb), who was travelling well when falling in this contest 12 months' ago and Long House Hall (Dan Skelton, 11st 2lb), not seen out since landing a Listed handicap chase at Market Rasen in July, 2016.
The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup is part of a seven-race card on day two of The International, which also features the £130,000 G2 Unibet International Hurdle (3.05pm), a leading trial for the Unibet Champion Hurdle.
This contest has re-opened for entries until 11.00am tomorrow, Tuesday, December 12, but is expected to feature The New One (Nigel Twiston-Davies), who is seeking a fourth win the race following wins in 2013, 2014 and 2016. Also re-opened for entries until 11.00am tomorrow is the opening £20,000 JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (12.10pm), which went to subsequent G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle scorer Defu Du Seuil in 2016.
Saturday's programme also includes the £30,000 Junior Jumpers Handicap Chase over two miles (1.20pm, 13 entries) which could feature 2014 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Sire De Grugy (Gary Moore) and the £30,000 G2 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (2.30pm, 17 entries).
Completing the card are £25,000 Ryman Novices' Chase (12.45pm, 13 entries) and the concluding £30,000 OLBG Mares' Handicap Hurdle (3.40pm, 21 entries).