Kylemore Lough has top-weight of 11st 12lb as 18 runners are declared to run in the feature £160,000 G3 BetVictor Gold Cup (2.25pm) at Cheltenham on the second day of The November Meeting, Saturday, November 18.
Cyfor Malta (2002) and Al Ferof (2012) are the only horses to have defied top-weight in the BetVictor Gold Cup this century, carrying 11st 9lb and 11st 8lb respectively.
Kylemore Lough (trainer Harry Fry/jockey Noel Fehily), a G1-winning novice for trainer Kerry Lee two seasons ago, is having his first start for new handler Harry Fry and heads BetVictor's market at 11/2 alongside Tully East (Alan Fleming IRE/Denis O'Regan, 11st 6lb).
Tully East, one of two Irish raiders in the line-up, has been the springer in the betting market since the entries were unveiled. The seven-year-old proved himself over Saturday's course and distance when landing the Listed Close Brothers' Novices' Handicap Chase at The Festival in March.
Ballyalton (Ian Williams/Tom O'Brien, 11st 1lb, 10/1 with BetVictor) captured the Listed Close Brothers' Novices' Handicap Chase at The Festival in 2016, before picking up an injury, and returned with an encouraging effort over hurdles at Aintree last month. The Ian Williams stable is in fine form, having landed a big-race double last weekend.
Somerset handler Paul Nicholls is doubly represented with Le Prezien (Barry Geraghty, 11st 8lb, 10/1), a close second to Foxtail Hill (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Jamie Bargary, 11st 5lb, 10/1) over two miles at The Showcase last month, and in-form five-year-old Romain De Senam (Harry Cobden, 11st 3lb, 9/1).
Double Treasure (Jamie Snowden/Gavin Sheehan, 11st 8lb, 16/1) is also on a roll after winning his last four starts, including over the course and distance at The Showcase, while Starchitect (David Pipe/Tom Scudamore, 11st 2lb, 10/1) scored last time out in a handicap chase at Stratford on November 2.
Northern challenger Guitar Pete (Nicky Richards/Ryan Day, 10st 6lb, 16/1) comes into the race in top form following a smooth seven-length victory in a Listed handicap chase at Wetherby on November 3.
Bentelimar (Jonathan Burke, 10st 11lb, 20/1) is having his first start for trainer Charlie Longsdon since making the switch from Irish handler Shay Barry.
A winner at Listed level over hurdles, Bentelimar was a 15-length winner of a novice chase at Wexford in June. The eight-year-old was fancied for Galway Plate in August before unseating his rider and was last seen out finishing sixth in the valuable Kerry National over three miles at Listowel in September.
Longsdon, based near Chipping Norton, said today: "Bentelimar has been very straightforward. I think he is what he says on the tin.
"He has got some very solid form in Ireland and has experience in some big handicaps despite being a novice.
"He didn't stay three miles on very testing ground at Listowel last time, but he has run some decent races over two and a half miles and two miles, six furlongs.
"I think his style of racing will be suited to a race like the BetVictor Gold Cup and he should have a nice, little each-way chance in what looks an open race."
Champion Jump trainer Nicky Henderson has two runners courtesy of Theinval (Jeremiah McGrath, 11st 4lb), who was placed in handicaps at the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals in the spring, and Days Of Heaven (11st 7lb, Nico De Boinville).
Other runners include second-season novice Aqua Dude (Evan Williams/Adam Wedge, 10st 11lb, 25/1), successful last time out in a beginners' chase at Uttoxeter, and the only mare in the field, Plaisir D'Amour (Venetia Williams/Aidan Coleman), who captured a mares' Listed handicap chase at The April Meeting.
BetVictor Gold Cup - BetVictor prices: 11/2 Kylemore Lough, Tully East; 9/1 Romain De Senam; 10/1 Ballyalton, Foxtail Hill, Le Prezien, Starchitect; 16/1 Double Treasure, Guitar Pete; 20/1 Bentelimar, Plaisir D'Amour; 25/1 Aqud Dude, Days Of Heaven, Splash Of Ginge, Theinval, Viconte Du Noyer; 33/1 Mystifiable, Lake Takapuna
The three-day November Meeting commences tomorrow, Countryside Day, Friday, November 17, with a cracking six-race card running from 12.40pm to 3.35pm.
A very competitive contest is in prospect for the richest race on Countryside Day, the £45,000 BetVictor Handicap Chase (1.50pm, nine runners) over two miles.
Heading the market at 5/2 with BetVictor is Exitas (Phil Middleton/James Bowen (7), 11st 2lb), who has won on three of his last four starts including a Listed contest at Ascot on November 4.
The Ian Williams stable is represented by Kapstadt (Will Kennedy, 10st, 10lb, 3/1), while top-weight Bright New Dawn (Venetia Williams/Liam Treadwell, 11st 12lb, 13/2) was not beaten far when seventh in the G3 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase at The Festival in March.
Last year's winner Un Beau Roman (Paul Henderson/Nick Scholfield, 10st 9lb) lines up once again and is joined by stable companion Doitforthevillage (Paddy Brennan, 11st 4lb), a useful novice last season who shaped promisingly on his return to action at The Showcase last month.
BetVictor Handicap Chase, BetVictor bet: 5/2 Exitas; 3/1 Kapstadt; 13/2 Bright New Dawn; 7/1 Doitforthevillage; 10/1 Mick Thonic; 12/1 Shanahan's Turn, Festive Affair; 16/1 Un Beau Roman; 20/1 Rock On Rocky
The first Cross Country contest of the season at Cheltenham takes place at 3.00pm, the £25,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase over three miles and six furlongs.
Heading the weights is the remarkable Cause Of Causes (Gordon Elliott/Mr Jamie Codd, 11st 12lb), who landed the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at The Festival in March prior to taking the runner-up spot in the Randox Health Grand National.
Irish handler Enda Bolger has won this race a remarkable six times and tomorrow saddles two runners headed by Cantlow (Mark Walsh, 11st 5lb), successful in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at The International in December last year. Bolger is also responsible for Auvergnat (Donal McInerney (5), 11st 2lb), who scored over the banks course at Punchestown in February prior to coming home fourth to Cause Of Causes at The Festival.
French handler Emmanuel Clayeux also has two runners including Urgent De Gregaine (Felix De Giles, 10st 13lb), who caused a 50/1 shock when winning the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day in January before taking the runner-up spot in the marathon Velka Pardubicka in the Czech Republic last month. Clayeux's second hopeful is Vicomte Du Seuil (Charlie Deutsch (3), 10st), who captured a cross country chase at Lignieres in France on October 22.
A select field of four goes to post in the Steel Plate & Sections Novices' Chase (2.25pm) over an extended two and a half miles. The standout is Finian's Oscar (Colin Tizzard/Bryan Cooper), owned by the late Ann and Alan Potts. The five-year-old was a dual G1 scorer over hurdles at Sandown Park and Aintree last season. He made the perfect start to his chasing career when a very easy winner at Chepstow on October 14.
There is also fascinating novices' hurdle action in the concluding £30,000 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (3.35pm, six runners) over two miles and five furlongs. Calett Mad (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Daryl Jacob), Poetic Rhythm (Fergal O'Brien/Paddy Brennan), Momella (Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton) and On The Blind Side (Nicky Henderson/Nico De Boinville) are all on the scoresheet already this season and the contest could provide some early clues for The Festival.
Action gets underway with the £22,000 Markel Insurance Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase (12.40pm, 15 runners) and also includes the £12,000 Fairlight Books Novices' Handicap Hurdle (1.15pm, 19 runners).
The going at Cheltenham is currently Good to Soft on the Chase and Hurdle courses and Good on the Cross Country course. Conditions are forecast to be predominantly dry, with a few showers.
The November Meeting ends with The November Meeting Sunday on November 19, when the feature race is the £100,000 Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle (3.00pm).