Local trainer Fergal O'Brien, based not far from Cheltenham Racecourse near Guiting Power in Gloucestershire, is readying a talented squad for The Showcase meeting, which opens the new season at the Home of Jump Racing on Friday, October 26 and Saturday, October 27.
A mix of veteran chasers, novice hurdlers and bumper performers are set to grace the meeting for O'Brien, with the yard set to doubly represented in the opening race of The Showcase, Friday's £20,000 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (2.00pm) over two miles and five furlongs.
Grageelagh Girl was kept busy during the summer, landing a maiden hurdle at Newton Abbot and a novice event at Stratford in June, both over an extended two and a quarter miles. She finished third at Perth on her latest start over two miles in July and will appreciate the longer distance.
Second to the Paul Nicholls-trained Posh Trishin a Listed Bumper at The November Meeting at Cheltenham in 2017, O'Brien is looking forward to running the seven-year-old mare at Cheltenham on Friday.
He said: "Grageelagh Girl is in good form at home and she will head to Cheltenham on Friday for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.
"She won two contests in June and we gave her a break after finishing third at Perth last time.
"She was also placed in a Listed bumper at Cheltenham last season and has done really well for us since joining the yard from Ireland."
Seven-year-old Lungarno Palace justified odds-on favouritism in a Stratford novice hurdle on October 8 under Alain Cawley, who is set to be in the saddle again on Friday.
O'Brien continued: "Lungarno Palace won well at Stratford last time out and he could also line up in the first race with Grageelagh Girl."
Lungarno Palace (10s 13lb) is additionally entered in the £15,400 Brandon Hill Handicap Hurdle (3.10pm) on Friday.
Mighty Leader (£25,000 'Matchbook Time To Move Over' Novices' Chase, 3.45pm) and Bells 'N' Banjos (£15,000 Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase, 4.20pm) are also set to run for O'Brien on Friday.
The trainer is due to be well represented on day two of The Showcase, with course specialist Perfect Candidate returning to his favourite venue. The 11-year-old has won three times at the track and finished fifth on Festival Trials Day, January 27, in the G2 BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase.
Perfect Candidate, a faller at the first fence in the 2018 Randox Health Grand National at Aintree, will head for the opening £60,000 "Matchbook Betting Exchange" Handicap Chase (2.00pm) over three miles and one furlong in which he has 11st 7lb and is second to top-weight. He finished runner-up in this race in 2015.
O'Brien continued: "Perfect Candidate runs in the opener at Cheltenham on Saturday.
"He loves the place, having won there three times, and hopefully he runs another good race at the weekend."
Other potential starters on Saturday for the yard include De Name Evades Me in the £15,000 Randox Health Novices' Hurdle (4.55pm). The six-year-old kept on in third behind talented stayer Kilfilum Cross in a novices' hurdle at Kempton in April - his latest start.
O'Brien revealed: "De Name Evades Me ran well at Kempton on his last start and the plan is to start over three miles at Cheltenham on Saturday.
"The ground will be in his favour and there is hopefully more to come from him."
The trainer could be double-handed in the final race of the card, the two-mile £15,000 Jockey Club Ownership Syndicate National Hunt Flat Race (5.30pm).
Four-year-old Robyndzone, a winner of his only point-to-point outing at Ballindenisk, Ireland, in May and five-year-old Strong Glance, successful on his debut for the yard in a Southwell National Hunt flat race in November, 2017, before finishing a creditable fifth to the Nick Gifford-trained Didtheyleaveuoutto at in a Listed contest at Ascot in December 2017, are both set to line up.
Discussing the duo, O'Brien remarked: "We have two nice horses to run in the bumper with Robyndzone, who is having his first start for me and Strong Glance who missed the Weatherbys Champion Bumper due to injury.
"Strong Glance ran very well in a decent bumper at Ascot last year and that race looks a nice place to start for him."
O'Brien revealed he is relishing the return of Jump racing at his local track.
The trainer concluded: "Cheltenham has a unique atmosphere and we can't wait for the weekend, being a local yard.
"The season takes off from this meeting and there's a real buzz around. It is going to be quick ground, but that highlights the warm summer we've had. Cheltenham will do a great job with the ground and we've got horses going there who will like the ground."
The going at Cheltenham is currently Good.
Conditions are forecast to be sunny and dry. Cooler temperatures with occasional showers are forecast for Friday.
With no rain forecast until the showers at the end of the week, the course is being selectively irrigated to maintain current conditions.
Record prize money
The Showcase offers record prize money of £370,400 across the two days in 2018 - a boost of £51,400 (16 per cent) on the £319,000 in 2017. The increase is part of the £8-million cash injection announced by The Jockey Club in December of last year.
The biggest prize money boosts at The Showcase apply to the two handicap chases run on Saturday.
The 'Matchbook Betting Exchange' Handicap Chase (2.00pm) over three miles and a furlong and the two-mile Randox Health Handicap Chase (3.10pm) both have a total prize fund of £60,000 (up from £50,000 in 2017).
Free admission for accompanied children
Accompanied children aged under 18 gain FREE entry to the racecourse.
SoGlos Showcase Zone - The Centaur
The Showcase will host the 'SoGlos Showcase Zone', celebrating and featuring some of Gloucestershire and the West's most well-respected food, drink and craft producers, in The Centaur
The SoGlos Showcase Zone is the perfect location to indulge in unique shopping, interactive demonstrations, as well as quality food and drink from across the region - not to mention meet the SoGlos team - at what is set to become a real autumnal highlight in Gloucestershire's social calendar.
Gloucestershire's leading lifestyle media, SoGlos has worked closely with Cheltenham Racecourse to promote world-class events in the online magazine for many years.
Attending in 2018:
Movers and Shakers
Bespoke custom mobile bars, with over two decades of hospitality and bar experience. Movers and Shakers are experts at providing custom, mobile bars with highly trained bar staff.
Polo Gin produces 100% organic gins certified by the Soil Association alongside being vegan-friendly/gluten free. Steeped in history, this proudly British, quadruple distilled, handcrafted, small batch Polo Gin uses only the best organic ingredients to create some of the most flavoursome yet smoothest of gins on the market.
The Pork Peddler
Pork Peddler' s philosophy is to use top quality local free-range meat, cooking it low and slow using smoke and fire to create unique barbecue flavours. Selling hot dogs, pulled pork, brisket and halloumi burgers.
A stylish and unique pop-up bar, stocking creative and tasty refreshments that will tantalise everyone's tastebuds.
Creating creative, specialist and bespoke metalwork ranging from sculptures, railings and art.
The Indian Guy
Selling authentic Indian street food including vegetarian and vegan options and Indian snacks, featuring both hot and cold dishes.
Unique and quirky, the Gloucester Studio and Pyromaniac Chef brand tell a story behind every food dish.
Farmers Finest Scotch Egg
Sue & Eddie Farmer welcome you to try and purchase their famous scotch eggs, deli produce and freshly made sandwiches & coffee.
Cake and Sugar Boutique
Cake and Sugarcraft Boutique have been creating beautiful cakes in Cheltenham for many years. We create wedding cakes, birthday cakes, unusual designs made to order and cupcakes in Cheltenham and the wider Gloucestershire area. We also offer popular cake making and decorating lessons.
The Curry Corner
With almost 40 years' experience, the Curry Corner has a choice of dishes, always using fresh ingredients and offering a variety of flavours.
At Windyridge, we have a flair for creating cheese flavour fusions from around the world using the finest ingredients and selecting quality cheeses from across our region. Over here in the West Country of England, we've historically always liked a hands-on approach to fine artisan cheese making.
At Cotswold Riding for the Disabled, we believe that life is about what you CAN do. Our riders all have a disability whether that's physical, mental or a learning difficulty, but we are here to help them achieve the very best they can whatever the disability or whatever the age.
Furniture maker Steve Mcllveen uses attention to detail to produce beautifully crafted gifts and homeware products. The aim of Steve's workshop is to be as eco-friendly as possible. It is powered by 100% renewable energy and all waste production material is used by a local visitor attraction to power their compost toilet. All of Steve's products are made from sustainably sourced FSC approved timbers and are finished with natural oils.
Crafting intricate pebble mosaics using colours and shapes, Sue Rew can make a unique garden feature which boasts individuality.
Willow Therapy Salt Lamps
Himalayan salt lamps are decorative lights for your home that emit a warming pink glow.
The Showcase 2018 Race Programme
Friday, October 26
Time Race Distance Prize Money
2:00 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle 2m 5f £20,000
2:35 squareintheair.com Novices' Chase 1m 7f 199y £25,000
3:10 Brandon Hill Capital Handicap Hurdle (0-140) 2m 5f £15,400
3:45 'Matchbook Time To Move Over' Novices' Chase 3m 80y £25,000
4:20 Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase (0-125) 3m 1f £15,000
4:55 Foundation Developments Ltd Maiden Hurdle 2m 87y £15,000
5:30 'Matchbook Betting Podcast' Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (0-140) 2m 87y £15,000
Saturday, October 27
Time Race Distance Prize Money
2.00 'Matchbook Betting Exchange' Handicap Chase 3m 1f £60,000
2:35 Masterson Holdings Hurdle 2m 87y £40,000
3:10 Randox Health Handicap Chase 1m 7f 199y £60,000
3:45 Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Series Qualifier) 2m 7f 208y £25,000
4:20 'Move Over To Matchbook' Novices' Chase 2m 3f 166y £25,000
4:55 Randox Health Novices' Hurdle 2m 7f 208y £15,000
5:30 The Jockey Club Ownership Syndicate Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race 2m 87y £15,000
Meeting Total £370,400