The International returns to Cheltenham Racecourse this Friday and Saturday.
Giving racegoers one last chance to get their Prestbury Park fix before the year is out, The International showcases some great NH action and features one of the most significant hurdle races of the entire season.
Friday’s card includes another running of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase which last year saw Irish trainer, Edna Bolger record his seventh success in the race.
The Saturday is set to be equally enthralling with the feature race being the International Hurdle, while racegoers can look forward to yet another Gold Cup- this time the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
The first four home in last month’s BetVictor Gold Cup – Splash Of Ginge, Starchitect, Le Prezien and Ballyalton – are among the entries for the £120,000 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. The Group 3 handicap chase carries an increased prize fund this year, up £20,000 from the 2016 total.
36 horses have been entered for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup with some interesting contenders amongst them.
Paul Nicholls has won the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup four times in all and his four-strong team includes Le Prezien and the recent Haydock scorer Clan Des Obeaux.
Nicky Henderson has five entries to choose from, more than any other trainer, with his best chance probably being with Gold Present.
Evan Williams will saddle On Tour and King's Odyssey.
On Tour made a successful reappearance at Aintree, while King's Odyssey was third in a graduation chase at Carlisle.
Williams said: "It all depends on the ground with King's Odyssey and he could go for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, provided there is plenty of cut.
"It was a positive comeback at Carlisle. He has always promised to win a nice race, and we think perhaps he is one of those horses that we should have won a nice race with already.
"On Tour is a funny old horse because he is another who has promised to win a nice race and thankfully we were able to win a good pot at Aintree.
"It might be that we have won our pot now, but he deserves to be in the all big two-and-a-half-mile handicaps like the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup because there is such good prize money on offer and he has shown that he can run well in those types of races."
After being just touched off by Splash Of Ginge in the BetVictor Gold Cup connections of Starchitect decided almost straight away that they would return for a crack at the Caspian Gold Cup.
Jason Maguire, racing manager for owners Paul and Clare Rooney, said: "He has form on soft ground and he likes that trip.
"He's as good as gold after the race so we'll probably head back to Cheltenham next.
"It's probably a bit too early to be making plans for the spring, but we'll see what the handicapper does with him.
"Hopefully he'll be even better in the spring and we'll probably look at those good two-and-a-half-mile handicaps with him."
After three successive wins the novice Deauville Dancer is stepping up to the big league.
His 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.”
In form trainer Dan Skelton has two interesting runners in Oldgrangewood and Long House Hal.
Ascot scorer Go Conquer is a Jonjo O’Neill representative to keep an eye on whilst Doitforthevillage, who won at Cheltenham’s November Meeting, steps up in distance for this.
Man of the moment, Nigel Twiston-Davies, has high hopes of giving the owners of The New One another Saturday to savour right on the back of the one they have just enjoyed with Blaklion at Aintree in the Becher Chase.
Speaking at a media event at his yard this week, Twiston-Davies said: "The New One is looking really good after his run in the Greatwood, where he was beaten only about five lengths. I thought he ran a superb race and he proved yet again he was by far the best horse in the race.
"He'll have a penalty again, but he gave 8lb to My Tent Or Yours in last year's International and there's no reason he can't do so again, although rain would help."
The three-time Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours is firmly on track to reappear in the International Hurdle in which he was runner-up to The New One last year.
Nicky Henderson was thrilled with the ten-year-old’s preparation this week and believes the International is the ideal race for him.
Henderson has won the International Hurdle three times before with Geos (2000), Binocular (2008*) and Grandouet (2011).
*In 2008 the race was held at Ascot.