The 2017/2018 season at Cheltenham Racecourse draws to a close tomorrow Friday, May 4, with the Hunter Chase Evening featuring seven contests for amateur riders.
Barel Of Laughs (Philip Rowley/Mr Alex Edwards) headlines 11 runners for the feature £25,000 Timico Mixed Open Gold Cup Final Hunters' Chase (6.40pm) over an extended three and a quarter miles.
The 12-year-old is going for back-to-back victories in the valuable event, having held The Wealerdealer (Ian Chanin/Mr Will Biddick) by a short-head in a thrilling finish 12 months ago.
Barel Of Laughs comes into the Timico Mixed Open Gold Cup Final Hunters' Chase on the back of a fine effort over course and distance in the St. James's Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters' Chase during The Festival on March 16, when he finished a staying-on third behind Pacha Du Polder for a second successive year.
The opposition tomorrow also includes recent Stratford scorer Abricot De L'Oasis (John Henderson/Mr Frederick Henderson) and Kelsey (Mickey Bowen/Miss Jodie Hughes), who won a Timico-sponsored mixed open point-to-point by 10 lengths at Lydstep on April 15.
Trainer Philip Rowley said today: "Barel Of Laughs has been really well since Cheltenham last month and is in great form.
"He ran a blinder at The Festival on the ground. I was delighted with him and I actually think he is in better form now.
"He won the Lady Dudley Cup at Chaddesley in between The Festival and the Hunter Chase Evening last year, but this year we felt the Lady Dudley Cup [run on April 21] was too close to the Timico final.
"That's the only reason he did not go there as the owners want a really big run tomorrow. We have got to be hopeful."
Rowley is represented in the concluding GX Landrover Open Hunters' Chase (8.25pm, 19 runners) over nearly two miles and five furlongs by Bear's Affair, also ridden by Alex Edwards. The 12-year-old ran a fine race on his latest appearance, when the two-and-a-half length runner-up to Balnaslow in the Randox Health Fox Hunters' Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree on April 12.
The Shropshire-based trainer teams up again with Edwards in the three and a quarter mile Connolly's Red Mills Intermediate Point-To-Point Championship Final Hunters' Chase (5.30pm, 13 runners) with Optimised, winner of his latest three point-to-points, while in the Hunt Staff Benefit Society Open Hunters' Chase (6.05pm, nine runners) over an extended three miles and a furlong, they are represented by Stoleaway, who is also chasing a four-timer following three point-to-point victories.
Rowley added: "Bear's Affair has come out of Aintree really well. For an old horse to jump around those fences as he did, he ran a hell of a race.
"I think if the ground had been a bit better, he might have won, but we will never know. He is in good form and the ground at Cheltenham tomorrow should be perfect.
"Optimised and Stoleaway should both run well in their respective races. Optimised is a little bit of an unknown. He has won three races on the bounce, but they were not great races. He is a little bit up against it, but I think he will jump and I think he will stay."
Hunter Chase Evening commences with two-mile Brian Babbage Memorial Open Hunters' Chase (4.55pm, 15 runners) and also features the visitcheltenham.com Mares' Open Hunters' Chase (7.15pm) over an extended three miles and a furlong, and the extended four-mile Cheltenham Club Open Hunters' Chase (7.50pm, 14 runners).
After racing, top DJs Jo Whiley and Huw Stephens will perform individual live sets in The Centaur to celebrate the end of the season. The live DJ sets are an extra ticketed event with wristbands purchasable for £10 (£7.50 for annual members) in conjunction with a Club/Tattersalls ticket.
A great value option for Hunter Chase evening is the Centaur Party Package (£45), which includes:
* Club/Tattersalls Enclosure Ticket
* £9 Food and refreshment vouchers
* £10 Tote betting vouchers
* A racecard voucher
* £5 Merchandise voucher (redeemable in Cheltenham collection shop on the day)
* Wristband for entry to Radio 2's Jo Whiley and Radio 1's Huw Stephens Live DJ sets in The Centaur
The doors of The Centaur open at 7.30pm for the after-party, with the event set to finish at 10.30pm.
Gates open at 3.30pm tomorrow.
A silent auction will be staged in aid of the Hunt Staff Benefit Society with auction lots ranging from a day's shooting and short breaks away, to bespoke hunting attire and local produce.
Further information on the silent auction can be found here:-
The going at Cheltenham is currently: Good to Soft
There was 11 millimetres of rain on Wednesday morning. The forecast for the remainder of the week is dry, with temperatures set to reach up to 16 degrees Celsius by Friday.