The April Meeting gets underway at Cheltenham on Wednesday, April 18, when the highlight is the £60,000 G2 Barchester Healthcare Silver Trophy Chase (2.40pm) over two miles and five furlongs.
The limited handicap has attracted a bumper 36 entries, with the weights set to be headed by the Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon. Nicholls has the chance to become the most successful trainer in the history of the race – he is currently tied on four winners with Martin Pipe.
Frodon produced a career-best over the course and distance earlier this season when taking the G3 Crest Nicholson Handicap Chase by 17 lengths under Bryony Frost on Festival Trials Day, January 27. He finished fifth in the G1 Ryanair Chase at The Festival on his latest start.
Nicholls’ four entries also include Romain De Senam, who started the campaign with victories at Chepstow and Stratford, plus course scorer Marracudja.
Double Treasure won his first three starts over fences this season, the most recent of which came in Royal Gloucestershire Novices’ Chase over two and a half miles at The Showcase in October.
The seven-year-old was strongly fancied for the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November but could only finish seventh after getting bogged down on the testing ground and has not raced since.
Double Treasure, who is owned by Arsenal chairman Sir Chips Keswick, also has the option of the £25,000 Weatherite Handicap Chase (5.00pm) over three and a quarter miles.
Trainer Jamie Snowden said today: “Double Treasure is bouncing out of his skin and waiting to run, but he needs good ground.
“We had him ready to run for The Festival and that turned out to be a bog, then we had him ready for Aintree, which is going to be a bog as well.
“I am just crying out for a bit of decent ground and if it is nice at Cheltenham, he will run.
“He has the option of the Barchester Healthcare Silver Trophy Chase or the longer race.
“He has obviously been winning over two and a half miles and the two and a half miler is the more valuable of the two races. There are a lot things in favour of that race, but I do think he is going to improve when he goes up in trip – the question is, when do we go up in trip and for which race?”
Other high-profile entries for the Barchester Healthcare Silver Trophy Chase include Shantou Village (Neil Mulholland). He won four of his five starts as a novice over fences last season but has not raced since being pulled up on his comeback at Aintree in October. Talented stablemate Kalondra, winner of the Ryman Novices’ Chase at The International, is also engaged.
Owners Simon Munir & Isaac Souede have two entries in unexposed French recruit Full Glass (Alan King), who finished third in G3 company at Auteuil on his final start for Guillaume Macaire, and Ballybolley (Nigel Twiston-Davies).
Trainer Venetia Williams, who captured back-to-back renewals of this race in 2008 and 2009, could run Cepage, successful on his latest start in a competitive handicap chase at Kempton Park on March 17.
The 21 entries for the Weatherite Handicap Chase include several familiar names such as Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase scorer Present Man (Paul Nicholls) and Singlefarmpayment (Tom George), who finished second in the 2017 Ultima Handicap Chase at The Festival.
The most valuable hurdle race on the card is the £25,000 Kingston Stud Supporting Greatwood Handicap Hurdle (3.15pm) over an extended two and a half miles. Champion trainer Nicky Henderson accounts for seven of the 55 entries, including impressive Sandown Park scorer Soul Emotion and talented novice Diese Des Bieffes.
The opening £20,000 Citipost Novices' Hurdle (2.05pm, 32 entries), also over the extended two and a half miles, has gone the way of some class acts in recent years, none more so than star chaser Might Bite in 2015.
Newbury G1 scorer Poetic Rhythm (Fergal O’Brien) is top-rated among the entries on 145, although he runs at Aintree this afternoon. Theclockisticking (Stuart Edmunds) also brings graded form to the table, having finished a close third behind Claimantakinforgan in a G2 contest at Ascot in December.
Ladbrokes Trophy fourth Braqueur D’Or (Paul Nicholls) is the headline act among 25 entries for the Nicholson Holman Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (3.50pm) over an extended three miles and a furlong.
The other two races on the card are the £20,000 Safran Landing Systems Handicap Hurdle (4.25pm, 53 entries, 3m) and the concluding £15,000 Cheltenham Pony Racing Authority Graduates' Handicap Hurdle (5.30pm, 41 entries 2m 179y), which is restricted to conditional and amateur jockeys that have ridden in PRA Pony Races.
The April Meeting continues on Thursday, April 19, with the first ever programme restricted to fillies and mares, including three Listed contests.