Worcestershire trainer Ian Williams is looking forward to saddling Ballyalton in the feature £160,000 BetVictor Gold Cup (45 entries) at Cheltenham on Saturday, November 18.
The G3 handicap chase, run over an extended two and a half miles, is the highlight of The November Meeting, which starts on Countryside Day, Friday, November 17 and concludes on The November Meeting Sunday, November 19.
Ballyalton missed last season, but made an encouraging comeback in a two and a half mile handicap hurdle at Aintree on October 29, when fading in the closing stages to finish sixth.
The 10-year-old knows what it takes to win a valuable handicap chase at Cheltenham, having defied top-weight in the Listed Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase at The Festival in March, 2016.
Ballyalton, a 25/1 chance with BetVictor, runs in the colours of golfer Lee Westwood's father John.
Williams said today: "Ballyalton has come out of Aintree fine and remains on target for the BetVictor Gold Cup.
"I was encouraged by his comeback last week. He got a bit out of his ground early on, but stayed on nicely before getting tired. It was perfect given the time he had off.
"He is 3lb higher over fences than when winning at The Festival, but that was a novice handicap whereas next week is an open handicap, which will be tougher.
"I thought he was fairly handicapped before he won at The Festival and hopefully he still is."
BetVictor Gold Cup - latest BetVictor prices: 8/1 Kylemore Lough; 10/1 Romain De Senam; 12/1 Go Conquer; 14/1 A Toi Phil, Cloudy Dream, Waiting Patiently; 16/1 Double Treasure, Gold Present, Le Prezien, San Benedeto, Tully East; 20/1 Foxtail Hill, Top Gamble, Politologue, Starchitect; 25/1 bar
E/W terms: ¼ the odds, 1-2-3-4
Options open for London Prize
Williams is also considering the £100,000 G3 Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle (47 entries, Sunday, November 19) for in-form Flat runner London Prize.
London Prize captured the Northumberland Plate consolation race at Newcastle in July before returning from a break to finish second in the valuable Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket on October 14.
The six-year-old made his mark over hurdles last season when swooping to win the G3 Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle at Sandown Park in March.
Williams added: "London Prize has several options and I haven't decided what we will do.
"We have given him an entry in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton over the weekend [Saturday, November 11], purely because it is such a small field. It is also possible that he could turn up at Cheltenham in either the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle or the [Martin & Co Jewellers] intermediate handicap hurdle the previous day."
London Prize is a 16/1 shot with the sponsor for the Unibet Greatwoood Handicap Hurdle.
Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle - Unibet prices:5/1 Defi du Seuil; 8/1 Divin Bere; 10/1 Call Me Lord; 12/1 Campeador, Charli Parcs, Elgin, Misterton; 16/1 Air Horse One, Silver Streak, Tigris River; 16/1 Chesterfield, Flying Tiger, Ivanovich Gorbatov, London Prize, Lough Derg Spirit, Mick Jazz, Midnight Maestro, Mohaayed, Nietzsche, Poker Play; 20/1 bar
E/W terms: ¼ odds 1,2,3,4
Weights for both the BetVictor Gold Cup and Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle will be revealed on Wednesday, November 8.