Cheltenham's new season gets underway this Friday, October 27, with exciting novice chasers and hurdlers set to feature on a seven-race card on day one of The Showcase.
Sceau Royal, sixth in the G1 Stan James Champion Hurdle at The Festival in March, headlines 12 entries for the £25,000 Squareintheair.com Novices' Chase (2.35pm) over two miles. The smart performer won at this meeting last year, taking the Masterson Holdings Hurdle impressively.
The Alan King-trained five-year-old made a winning start to his chasing career when scoring comfortably from Ballyhill (Nigel Twiston-Davies) at Warwick on October 5.
Paul Nicholls has won three of the last nine renewals of the race and could this year rely on G3 Betfair Hurdle runner-up Movewiththetimes and Capitane, an easy scorer on his chasing debut at Newton Abbot in May.
North Hill Harvey (Dan Skelton), successful in the G3 stanjames.com Greatwood Hurdle in 2016, and recent Downpatrick winner Canny Tom (Gordon Elliott IRE) also hold entries in the Squareintheair.com Novices' Chase.
Racing gets underway at 2pm with the £20,000 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs, which has attracted 15 entries including Mon Palois (Kim Bailey), who has been successful on both his hurdle appearances to date, and recent Uttoxeter winner Palmers Hill (Jonjo O'Neill).
Windshear (Sophie Leach), fourth in the 2014 St Leger, and French import Dostal Phil (Philip Hobbs) feature among 16 contenders for the £10,000 Foundation Developments Ltd Maiden Hurdle (4.55pm) over an extended two miles.
Guitar Pete gained a pair of G1 victories over hurdles as a juvenile in 2014, as well as finishing third in the G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival in the same year. The seven-year-old is one of 45 entries for the two-mile, five-furlong £12,000 Brandon Hill Handicap Hurdle (3.10pm).
Since moving to the Cumbrian yard of Nicky Richards earlier this year, Guitar Pete has finished second five times on the Flat, over hurdles and fences. On his latest appearance, the son of Dark Angel went down by four lengths to Ballybolley in the Listed Prelude Handicap Chase at Market Rasen on September 30.
Richards could also be represented in the Brandon Hill Handicap Hurdle by six-year-old Caius Marcius, a four-time hurdle winner over two miles, who also lined up at Market Rasen on September 30, finishing eighth in the Listed Prelude Handicap Hurdle.
The trainer commented: "We will have a look at the Brandon Hill Handicap Hurdle for both Guitar Pete and Caius Marcius.
"There is a two and a half-mile handicap hurdle at Aintree on Sunday which we were considering for Caius Marcius but, if we keep getting a lot of rain in the North West, then we might consider sending him down to Cheltenham instead.
"Caius Marcius is a grand, consistent little horse and wants decent ground. He made a mistake early on at Market Rasen and two miles around there was a little bit sharp for him. He still ran well - he wasn't beaten that far - and we want to try him over a bit further.
"We think that Guitar Pete might be better handicapped over fences, so we might stick to going chasing for the time being. Mr Sloan [owner] sent him to me just to see if we could rejuvenate him and get him running a bit better. I suppose we have achieved that without winning a race.
"He will keep giving us a bit of fun and might just land a decent race at some stage, whether it's over fences, hurdles or even on the Flat."
Day one of The Showcase also includes the £12,000 Joel Dommett Here on 6th April Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase (4.20pm, 31 entries) and the £10,000 Experience The Theatre at The Festival Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (5.30pm, 25 entries).
The £25,000 Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices' Chase (3.45pm) has re-opened.
The second day of The Showcase on Saturday, October 28, is headlined by a pair of £50,000 contests - the randoxhealth.com Handicap Chase over three miles and a furlong and the two-mile Randox Health Handicap Chase - plus the £35,000 Masterson Holdings Hurdle over two miles.
As well as all the action on the track, racegoers will also be able to get behind the scenes of "The Sport of Kings" at The Showcase. There will be guided tours of the Parade Ring and Weighing Room before racing, as well as various activities and displays about the sport.
Tours will take place approximately every half an hour, starting from The Plaza, once gates have opened, up until half an hour before the first race.
The Showcase Food & Drink Zone, staged for the first time in 2014, returns to The Centaur to demonstrate all that is great about the food and drinks producers of the Cotswolds.
The racecourse sits in the heart of the Cotswolds and there are many amazing elements of the region that will be celebrated in The Showcase Food & Drink Zone.
Stands include those from local companies such as Pie And Might Pies, The Old Chapel Fudge Company and Severn Cider.
A full list of stands can be found here:
Friday, October 27
2.00 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle Race 2m 5f £20,000
2.35 squareintheair.com Novices' Chase 2m £25,000
3.10 Brandon Hill Capital Handicap Hurdle (0-140) 2m 5f £12,000
3.45 Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices' Chase 3m ½f £25,000
4.20 Joel Dommett Here On 6th April Centaur Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase (0 -125) 3m 1f £12,000
4.55 Foundation Developments Ltd Maiden Hurdle 2m ½f £10,000
5.30 Experience The Theatre at The Festival Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (0-140) 2m ½f £10,000
Saturday, October 28
2.00 randoxhealth.com Handicap Chase 3m 1f £50,000
2.35 Masterson Holdings Hurdle 2m ½f £35,000
3.10 Randox Health Handicap Chase 2m £50,000
3.45 Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle 3m £25,000
4.20 Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Novices' Chase 2m 4f £25,000
4.55 Junior Jumpers The Showcase Novices' Hurdle 3m £10,000
5.30 Jockey Club Venues Standard Open NH Flat Race 2m ½f £10,000