Ante-post favourite Rather Be heads a maximum field of 20 going for glory in the £160,000 G3 BetVictor Gold Cup, staged over two and a half miles at Cheltenham this Saturday, November 17, day two of The November Meeting.
Rather Be (Nicky Henderson/Jeremiah McGrath, 11st), the 9/2 market leader with BetVictor, has not raced since going down by a head to Mister Whitaker over course and distance in the Listed Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase at The Festival™ presented by Magners in March. Trainer Nicky Henderson is chasing his second victory in BetVictor Gold Cup, after Fondmort in 2003.
Mister Whitaker (Mick Channon/Adrian Heskin, 11st 3lb, 6/1 with BetVictor) is set to meet Rather Be on 9lb worse terms, having since made a successful reappearance in the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Chase at Carlisle on November 4.
Neil Mulholland is doubly represented, with course scorer Kalondra (Noel Fehily, 10st 13lb, 13/2) the pick of his runners. Kalondra fell when travelling strongly in a conditions chase at the Galway Festival in August. Stablemate Shantou Village (Robert Dunne, 10st 8lb, 16/1), a G2-winning novice hurdler at Cheltenham in 2015, drops back in trip after finishing sixth in the three-mile, one-furlong Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase over the course at The Showcase on October 27.
Gary Moore is also doubly represented by Baron Alco (Joshua Moore, 10st 11lb, 10/1), who was beaten a head on his return from injury at Chepstow last month, and G1 JLT Novices' Chase third Benatar (Jamie Moore, 11st, 10/1).
Nigel Twiston-Davies has four BetVictor Gold Cup victories to his name, making him the most successful current trainer in the race.
The Naunton handler saddles last year's BetVictor Gold Cup winner Splash Of Ginge (Jamie Bargary, 10st 6lb, 25/1) and Ballyandy (Sam Twiston-Davies, 10st 2lb, 20/1), winner of the G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper at The Festival™ presented by Magners in 2016.
Ballyandy has endured a chequered career over fences so far, with his sole success coming on his chasing debut at Perth in September, 2017, and his jumping lacked fluency on his comeback last month when third in a Listed handicap chase at Wetherby.
Splash Of Ginge ended last season with an admirable second behind The Storyteller in the G3 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at The Festival™ presented by Magners. The popular 10-year-old finished fifth over hurdles at Newbury on November 8.
Twiston-Davies said: "Ballyandy and Splash Of Ginge are both in good form.
"Ballyandy was a bit disappointing at Wetherby, as he didn't jump very well, but he has schooled since and that went well. I am hoping he will run a good race.
"Splash Of Ginge ran a nice race over hurdles last week. He obviously won this race last year, but he will need all the rain we can get."
Top-weight Frodon (Bryony Frost, 11st 12lb, 16/1) is one of three runners for Paul Nicholls, who has captured two of the last six BetVictor Gold Cups. Frodon is joined by the J P McManus-owned novice Movewiththetimes (Barry Geraghty, 10st 5lb, 14/1) and Romain De Senam (Harry Cobden, 10st 3lb, 20/1).
King's Socks (Tom Scudamore, 10st 4lb, 10/1) is having his first start since undergoing a wind operation. His trainer David Pipe also saddles dual chase scorer Eamon An Cnoic (David Noonan, 10st, 33/1).
West Approach (Colin Tizzard/Richard Johnson, 10st 7lb, 14/1) and Happy Diva (Kerry Lee/Richard Patrick (3), 10st 5lb, 16/1)) both come into the race in good form. West Approach finished third in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase at The Showcase, while Happy Diva chased home Mister Whitaker at Carlisle.
Guitar Pete (Nicky Richards/Brian Hughes, 10st 2lb, 20/1) returns to the scene of his biggest triumph, having captured the 2017 G3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at The International in December.
The line-up is completed by Javert (Emma Lavelle/Adam Wedge, 11st 1lb, 16/1), Geordie Des Champs (Rebecca Curtis/Niall Madden, 10st 2lb, 33/1), Willie Boy (Charlie Longsdon/Gavin Sheehan, 10st, 25/1) and Whoshotwho (Dr Richard Newland/Sean Bowen, 10st, 50/1).
Irish challenger Black Scorpion (Eric McNamara, 10st) is first reserve. He will get a run if a horse is withdrawn before 1pm tomorrow, Friday, November 16.
BetVictor Gold Cup, BetVictor bet:
9/2 Rather Be
6/1 Mister Whitaker
10/1 Baron Alco, Benatar, King's Socks
14/1 Movewiththetimes, West Approach
16/1 Frodon, Happy Diva, Javert, Shantou Village
20/1 Ballyandy, Guitar Pete, Romain De Senam
25/1 Splash of Ginge,
33/1 Eamon An Cnoic, Geordie Des Champs, Willie Boy
Each-Way: 1/5 the odds - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Tiger Roll among stars on show on Countryside Day tomorrow
The November Meeting gets underway tomorrow, Friday, November 16, Countryside Day. The six-race programme runs from 12.40pm through to 3.35pm.
The 2018 Randox Health Grand National hero Tiger Roll (Gordon Elliott IRE/Keith Donoghue, 11st 12lb) is one of seven starters in the £25,000 Glenfarclas Cross County Handicap Chase (3.00pm) over three and three-quarter miles. The Gigginstown House Stud-owned eight-year-old is also a three-time winner at The Festival™ presented by Magners, most recently in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase in March, 2018.
Gordon Elliott is also set to be represented by 13-year-old Bless The Wings (Davy Russell, 11st 5lb) who was third to Tiger Roll at Aintree and also has tremendous form over the Cheltenham's Cross County Course, having won the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at The International in 2017 and finished runner-up three times in similar contests.
Fellow Irish handler Enda Bolger has won this contest a record seven times and relies on Josies Orders (Jonathan Burke, 10st 11lb). Owned by J P McManus, the 10-year-old has won three times over the course and distance, including this contest in 2015 and at The Festival™ presented by Magners in 2016.
The richest race of the day is the £40,000 BetVictor Handicap Chase (1.50pm, seven runners) over two miles. Trainer Paul Henderson has won the contest for the past two seasons and is represented again this time round by 2017 scorer Doitforthevillage (Tom O'Brien, 11st 9lb). Heading the weights is A Hare Breath (Ben Pauling/Daryl Jacob, 11st 12lb), who has won on his first start of the campaign for two of the past three seasons, including at The November Meeting in 2015.
Action gets underway tomorrow at 12.40pm with the £25,000 Markel Insurance Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase (12.40pm, 11 runners) over three miles and a furlong. The field includes 2016 G3 bet365 Gold Cup winner The Young Master (Neil Mulholland/Mr Sam Waley-Cohen, 11st 8lb).
Intriguing novices' hurdle action comes courtesy of the concluding £32,000 G2 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (3.35pm, nine runners) over two miles and five furlongs. Champion Jump trainer Nicky Henderson is represented by the promising Pym (Noel Fehily), while the Colin Tizzard team run recent impressive Fontwell scorer Darlac (Richard Johnson).
Henderson is doubly represented in the £25,000 Steel Plate & Sections Novices' Chase (2.25pm, seven runners) over two and a half miles with Jenkins (David Bass) and Mr Whipped (Jeremiah McGrath). Both were both very useful hurdlers with ratings in the 140s. Jenkins made a perfect start to his chasing career when successful at Stratford on October 8.
Completing the action on Countryside Day is the £15,000 Swanee River Supports Countryside Alliance Novices' Handicap Hurdle over an extended two miles (1.15pm, 20 runners).
The going at Cheltenham is currently:
Chase and Hurdle: Good to Soft, Good in places.
Cross Country: Good, Good to Firm in places (watered)
The outlook is dry, with cooler temperatures at the weekend.