Unbeaten chaser Waiting Patiently has been allotted 11st 11lb for the £120,000 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham on the second day of The International, Saturday, December 16, details of which are revealed today.
The prestigious G3 handicap chase, run over nearly two miles and five furlongs on the New Course, carries an increased prize fund this year, up £20,000 on the 2016 value of £100,000.
Waiting Patiently (Malcolm Jefferson) scored three times over fences last season, culminating with a decisive victory over Politologue in a G2 contest at Haydock Park, and returned with a pleasing success in the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle on November 5.
The weights are topped by multiple G2 scorer Top Gamble (Kerry Lee, 11st 12lb), although he has the option of the G1 John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase in Ireland this weekend.
BetVictor Gold Cup hero Splash Of Ginge (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 10st 8lb) is 5lb higher in the ratings following his neck success at the course last month. Exotic Dancer in 2006 is the latest horse to complete the BetVictor Gold Cup-Caspian Caviar Gold Cup double in the same season, following on from Pegwell Bay (1988) and Senor El Betrutti (1997).
Those who filled the places behind Splash Of Ginge in the BetVictor Gold Cup - Starchitect (David Pipe, 11st 3lb), Le Prezien (Paul Nicholls, 11st 7lb) and Ballyalton (Ian Williams, 10st 12lb) - are all likely to be in opposition again.
Paul Nicholls is the most successful trainer in the history of the race, with four successes, and his quartet also includes talented five-year-olds Clan Des Obeaux (11st 10lb) and Romain De Senam (11st).
Gold Present (11st 2lb), who got up in the dying strides to win the Sir Peter O'Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase at Newbury over the weekend, is one of five entries for champion trainer Nicky Henderson.
Total Recall (Willie Mullins IRE, 11st 11lb) has been raised 9lb to mark of 156 following his success in last weekend's Ladbrokes Trophy, although is unlikely to run again until the new year. Stablemates Acapella Bourgeois and Childrens List have been handed 11st 6lb and 11st 3lb respectively.
The novice Deauville Dancer (10st 6lb) is on roll after three successive wins, latterly by 13 lengths in a novices' handicap chase over two miles and three furlongs at Doncaster on December 2. This run of form has seen his handicap mark climb 15lb to a rating of 136.
Trainer David Dennis said: "Deauville Dancer has come out of Doncaster very well. He is quite fresh and did not have too hard a time.
"He has gone up 7lb in the handicap on the back of that which will hopefully help us get in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, provided the ground is suitable as he doesn't want it testing. Although he is still a novice, he is very confident with his jumping. I think that is his forte. It is probably a bit of a brave shot going for a race like the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup but he has jumped so well that it would not be a concern.
"He seems to settle well his races now, which is a big factor, and, although he has never run over two miles and five furlongs, I don't the trip will be problem as he was stayer on the Flat."
Dan Skelton has two interesting contenders in Oldgrangewood (11st 3lb), also a winner at Newbury last weekend, and Long House Hall (11st), as does Evan Williams courtesy of recent Aintree victor On Tour (10st 9lb) and King's Odyssey (10st 9lb).
Others to note include Go Conquer (Jonjo O'Neill, 11st 6lb), who could drop back in trip after scoring over three miles at Ascot last time out, and conversely Doitforthevillage (Paul Henderson, 10st 8lb), who triumphed over two miles in the BetVictor Handicap Chase at The November Meeting.