Festival Trials Day takes place at Cheltenham on Saturday, January 28, and offers racegoers the final opportunity to experience action at the Home of Jump Racing before The Festival (Tuesday, March 14 to Friday, March 17 inclusive).
A terrific nine-race programme on Festival Trials Day, boosted by the addition of the Grade One Clarence House Chase (1.45pm) from yesterday's abandoned Ascot feature, has the £100,000 Grade Two BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase (2.15pm) at its heart.
Run over an extended three miles and a furlong, this year's renewal is set to feature Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite, unbeaten novice chaser Thistlecrack, and the last two winners of the race in Smad Place and Many Clouds.
Top-quality staying hurdle action is provided by the £60,000 G2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle (4.00pm) over three miles. Thistlecrack won this race 12 months ago prior to his impressive victory in the G1 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle at The Festival in 2016, while two other great staying hurdlers, Inglis Drever and Big Buck's, were successful in the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle ahead of their achievements at The Festival.
Amy Murphy, Britain's youngest trainer at 24, is looking forward to saddling her first runner at Cheltenham on Saturday, with Mercian Prince set for the £25,000 Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase (12.35pm) over an extended two and a half miles.
Newmarket-based Murphy has made an excellent start to her training career, with six winners from 21 runners over jumps.
Two of those successes came courtesy of six-year-old Mercian Prince who looked a horse to follow on his latest outing when powering to a two-length victory in two and a half mile handicap chase at Sandown Park on January 7.
A winner over fences in France at Auteuil in June, 2016, he was runner-up on his British debut at Uttoxeter to Tiquer on November 20 before going one better nine days later in a handicap chase at Southwell.
Murphy said: "Mercian Prince is in great form. He did a piece of work on Friday morning under Jack Quinlan and we are very happy, so it is all systems go for next Saturday.
"We were really surprised when he got beat first time out at Uttoxeter but I think he just bumped into one because the pair pulled a long way clear of the third.
"He was really tough at Sandown as the ground would not have been ideal. He is more of a top of the ground horse - he is a lovely mover - and fortunately he got away with it.
"We are keen to run him next week with obviously a view to coming back in March. I will have to speak with the owner [Paul Murphy, her father and breeder of Mercian Prince] but I am sure there will be a couple of options come The Festival."
Full details of the re-scheduled Clarence House Chase, which has been re-opened for entries up until Tuesday, January 24 at noon, will be announced tomorrow. Run over two miles, the G1 chase has been staged twice before at Cheltenham, in 2013 when Sprinter Sacre was successful and in 2005 when it was a G2 handicap chase and Well Chief defied top-weight.
There is Pattern action on offer for novices with the opening £30,000 G2 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial (noon, 2m 179y) and the £30,000 G2 Neptune Investment Management Classic Novices' Hurdle (3.25pm, 2m 4f 56y), while the feature handicap of the day are the £60,000 G3 Hugo's Restaurant Barbados Trophy Handicap Chase (1.10pm, 2m 4f 166y).
Another added bonus to the race programme on Festival Trials Day in 2017 is the £25,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase (2.50pm, 3m 6f 37y), which was rescheduled following its abandonment at The Open in November due to the lack of rain.
Festival Trials Day concludes with the £25,000 Steel Plate & Sections Handicap Hurdle (4.35pm, 2m 179y).