Thistlecrack heads the weights on 11st 12lb for the feature £160,000 G3 BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham on day two of The November Meeting, Saturday, November 17, details of which were revealed on Wedndesday
Thistlecrack (Colin Tizzard, 12/1 with BetVictor) is on the comeback trail, having only raced three times since his memorable victory as a novice in the 2016 G1 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton Park. He was last seen out when fourth in the same race last season.
BetVictor's 8/1 joint-favourites are Mister Whitaker (Mick Channon, 10st 13lb) and Rather Be (Nicky Henderson, 10st 10lb), who finished first and second in the Listed Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase over course and distance at The Festival™ presented by Magners in March.
Mister Whitaker has an official rating of 152 following his two and a half-length victory over Happy Diva (Kerry Lee, 10st 1lb, 14/1) in the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Chase at Carlisle on November 4.
Second-season chasers have a good record in the BetVictor Gold Cup, a handicap chase over two and a half miles, and another who falls in that bracket is Kalondra (10st 9lb), a 10/1 chance with BetVictor.
The seven-year-old won two of his five starts over fences last season, including a decisive course success in the Ryman Novices' Chase over two miles and five furlongs at The International in December, and ended the campaign back at Cheltenham with a good third in the G2 Barchester Healthcare Silver Trophy Limited Handicap Chase at The April Meeting.
Kalondra fell on his reappearance this term when travelling well in a conditions chase at the Galway Festival in August, and has not raced since.
Trainer Neil Mulholland, who is based near Bath, said: "Kalondra has been good since Galway and we have had the BetVictor Gold Cup in mind for a while as he has run well at Cheltenham before.
"I would like to think that he will be very competitive off of his current mark . I don't think we have got to the bottom of him yet and I think he can improve a bit more.
"The ground was soft when he won at Cheltenham last season and I would not be as bothered about the ground for him now, as he is definitely a bit stronger.
"He is the most solid of our entries and you would be happy with how he is going."
Mulholland's other BetVictor Gold Cup entry, eight-year-old Shantou Village (10st 4lb, 20/1), is a two-time winner at Cheltenham and ran at The Showcase on his latest start last month, weakening to finish sixth when one of the market leaders for the 'Matchbook Betting Exchange' Handicap Chase over three miles and a furlong.
That performance came on the back of a respectable fifth behind Snow Falcon in the three-mile Kerry National Handicap Chase at Listowel, Ireland, in September.
Mulholland added: "Shantou Village will take his chance in the BetVictor Gold Cup as well. He also has form at the track.
"I think we were maybe too positive on him over the longer trip last time. We will hold onto him a little bit next time."
West Sussex trainer Gary Moore also has two BetVictor Gold Cup contenders in Benatar (10st 10lb, 16/1) and Baron Alco (10st 7lb, 10/1). Benatar finished third behind Shattered Love in this year's G1 JLT Novices' Chase at The Festival™ presented by Magners, while Baron Alco was just touched off by Charbel in a handicap chase at Chepstow on October 14.
Recent G2 Monet's Garden Old Roan Chase victor Frodon (16/1), with 11st 8lb, has the most weight of the nine Paul Nicholls-trained entries. Others to note for the Somerset handler include Romain De Senam (9st 13lb, 12/1) and the J P McManus-owned trio of Le Prezien (11st 3lb, 16/1), Modus (10st 11lb, 20/1), successful at The Showcase, and Movewiththetimes (10st 1lb, 20/1).
Last year's BetVictor Gold Cup hero Splash Of Ginge (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 20/1) has been allotted 10st 2lb. He could bid to become the seventh dual winner of the prestigious race and the first since Cyfor Malta (1998 & 2002).
His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, who trains not far from Cheltenham, has sent out four winners of the BetVictor Gold Cup, more than any other current handler, and is also responsible for Crievehill (10st 7lb, 33/1), Ballybolley (10st 1lb, 25/1) and Ballyandy (9st 12lb, 16/1).
Other contenders include Aso (Venetia Williams, 10st 11lb, 14/1), who finished third behind Un De Sceaux in last year's G1 Ryanair Chase at The Festival™ presented by Magners, plus unexposed French imports King's Socks (David Pipe, 10st, 16/1) and Full Glass (Alan King, 10st 3lb, 16/1).
Favourite If The Caps Fits given 11st 7lb in Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle
Multiple graded victor Old Guard has top weight of 11st 12lb for the £100,000 G3 Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday, November 18, day three of The November Meeting.
Old Guard (Paul Nicholls, 25/1) won this race as a four-year-old in 2014 and is among 56 entries for the two-mile contest.
Ante-post favourite If The Caps Fits (Harry Fry), the 8/1 market leader with Unibet, has been handed 11st 7lb. The six-year-old is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles.
The pick of the seven Irish-trained entries, the JP McManus-owned Off You Go (11st 7lb, 12/1), has been given 11st 7lb after completing a three-timer at Galway on October 27.
Redicean (Alan King, 11st 7lb, 25/1) could return to Cheltenham after finishing second to Pearl Of The West in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle at The Showcase on October 27.
The Cheveley Park Stud-owned four-year-old won three of his four starts over hurdles last season, including an impressive seven-length victory in the G2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton Park in February.
Trainer Alan King commented: "Redicean ran well at Cheltenham in October.
"He was trying to give a stone and a pound to the winner [Pearl Of The West]. It was a good run - and I was happy enough, because the winner was race-fit.
"He is entered in the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle back at Cheltenham and that is something we could look at running in."
The November Meeting at Cheltenham takes place over three days - Countryside Day, Friday, November 16; The November Meeting Saturday, November 17 and The November Meeting Sunday, November 18, and marks the start of the main part of the Jump season.