Female racehorses take centre stage on day two of The April Meeting at Cheltenham, with three Listed races for fillies and mares kicking off an excellent seven-race card tomorrow Thursday, April 20.
The richest race of the afternoon is the £40,000 Listed EBF/Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Mares' Novices' Handicap Chase (2.40pm, seven runners) over just short of two miles and five furlongs.
Heading the weights on 11st 10lb is Antartica De Thaix (Paul Nicholls/Sam Twiston-Davies), who is seeking a four-timer following victories at Bangor, Huntingdon and Wincanton.
Briery Belle (Henry Daly/Tom O'Brien, 11st 8lb) was successful over hurdles at this meeting 12 months ago and has been successful on two of her four starts over fences so far this season, including in Listed company at Warwick in December.
She was last seen out at The Festival on March 15, when she was pulled up in the G1 RSA Chase.
Shropshire-based Daly said today: "Briery Belle didn't get on very well in the RSA Chase and luckily Tom pulled her up, so hopefully we are on a bit of a recovery mission tomorrow.
"This is certainly not as competitive as her latest start but two and a half miles is probably the minimum trip for her.
"She has been jumping well this season and should go well."
Other leading contenders include Magic Money (Warren Greatrex/Harry Bannister (3), 10st 1lb) who is seeking to follow up on her success in the valuable Challenger Series Mares' Chase Final Handicap Chase at Haydock on April 15.
The opening £20,000 Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Mares' Novices' Hurdle (2.05pm) has attracted eight runners including Taunton Listed scorer Coillte Lass (Paul Nicholls/Sam Twiston-Davies), who drops down in class after finishing 11th in the G2 Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle at The Festival.
Deauville Crystal (Nigel Hawke/Sean Bowen) heads to Cheltenham on the back of two valuable juvenile handicap hurdle wins, including when staying on well to score by two and a quarter lengths at Newbury on March 25. The four-year-old daughter of Raven's Pass followed up five days later under a penalty at Warwick.
Hawke, who trains at Tiverton in Devon, commented: "Deauville Crystal seems to be in great form. Obviously, she seems to be improving following her last two races and I think we are quite well-in at the weights.
"When she won at Newbury, she galloped away to the line and you would like to think that two and a half miles around Cheltenham on decent ground would be ideal for her, while Sean gets on very well with her as well.
"We were thinking about going to Sandown with her next Saturday for the juvenile handicap hurdle but this race has caught my eye because she doesn't get any penalty and it is a Listed race.
"If she comes out of tomorrow well, then there is the possibility that she could still go to Sandown next week but we don't want to be greedy.
"At some stage, she will definitely go over fences because, being a four-year-old filly, she will get all the allowances. She jumps well and I can see her going over fences next season."
The third Listed contest on the Cheltenham card is the £22,000 Catesby Property Group Plc Mares' Handicap Hurdle (3.15pm, 14 runners).
Snow Leopardess (Charlie Longsdon/Aidan Coleman, 11st) will attempt to follow up on her success in the G2 EBF & TBA Mares' "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle Finale at Newbury on March 25, while Carnspindle (Warren Greatrex/Mr Thomas Greatrex (7), 10st)is after a hat-trick following successes at Exeter and Fontwell.
Henry Daly is represented by Tara Mist (10st 1lb, Andrew Tinkler). A Listed-placed performer in bumpers, she won on her seasonal return at Ludlow in January before finishing fourth on latest start at Exeter in February.
Daly continued: "Tara Mist was disappointing last time but I shouldn't have run her over two miles, so it was my fault. She needs two and a half miles and a stiff track should suit her much better.
"She won on soft at Ludlow in January, although it wasn't that slow that day and quicker ground will be absolutely fine - she won on really quick ground at Perth a couple of years ago."
Bryony Frost, successful on Pacha Du Polder in the St James's Place Foxhunter Hunters' Chase at The Festival, returns to Cheltenham to partner Virak (Paul Nicholls) in the £20,000 Llewellyn Humphreys Handicap Chase (3.50pm).
A field of eight for the three and a quarter-mile contest also includes recent Ffos Las scorer Upswing (Jonjo O'Neill/Aidan Coleman) and Coologue (Charlie Longsdon/Brian Hughes), who won the Randox Handicap Chase at The Showcase earlier this season.
Progressive five-year-old Mr Clarkson (David Pipe/David Noonan) aims for a fifth victory this season in the three-mile £20,000 Kingston Stud Supporting The IJF Handicap Hurdle (4.20pm) and his 11 rivals include Big Easy (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson), best known for winning the 2014 Cesarewitch Handicap on the Flat.
The £12,000 Nicholson Holman Novices' Handicap Chase (4.55pm, 10 runners) and the £8,000 Spreadex Sports Betting Mares' NH Flat Race (5.30pm, 7 runners) complete the card.
After racing on Thursday, four equine superstars - Sprinter Sacre, Valegro, Big Star and Chilli Morning - will parade (5.50pm) before the Pertemps Champions Willberry Charity Race at 6.15pm run in aid of the Bob Champion Cancer Trust and Hannah's Willberry Wonder Pony charity.
The Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham April Sale will take place, offering 40+ horses, in the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham Sales Arena at 6.30pm.
Graduates of the sale include multiple G1 winner Peddlers Cross and Moon Racer, who captured the G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper at The Festival in 2015.