The April Meeting at Cheltenham gets underway next week on Wednesday, April 19, with a seven-race card headlined by the £50,000 Grade Two Matt Hampson Foundation & NSIF Silver Trophy Chase (2.40pm, 22 entries).
The limited handicap, staged over an extended two and a half miles, has been won by the popular chasers Buywise (2014), Champion Court (2013) and Poquelin (2011) in recent years.
Entries for this year's renewal are headed by course specialist Village Vic (Philip Hobbs). The 10-year-old was narrowly denied by Taquin Du Seuil in November's BetVictor Gold Cup and finished third behind Frodon in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup the following month, a race he won impressively in 2015.
Village Vic underperformed last time out when 11th in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at The Festival on March 16. Several of next week's entries also contested that race, with Thomas Crapper (Robin Dickin), Starchitect (David Pipe), Ballykan (Nigel Twiston-Davies) faring best in fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.
Ballykan is likely to turn out quickly after taking an uncharacteristic fall at The Chair in the G3 Randox Health Topham Handicap Chase at Aintree on April 7.
The seven-year-old captured a class two handicap chase over this distance at Southwell in August and has since run well in several big handicaps, including when third in the Listed Prelude Handicap Chase at Market Rasen in September and fifth in the three-mile G3 BetBright Handicap Chase at Kempton Park in February.
Anthony Bromley, racing manager for owners Simon Munir & Isaac Souede, said today: "The idea is to run Ballykan at Cheltenham next week. He is none the worse from his spill at The Chair last week, which took us completely by surprise because he has never fallen before.
"Next week is obviously another competitive race but it shouldn't be a massive field. He goes on decent ground and the trip is right, so I imagine he will take his chance.
"He is his own worst enemy because he runs a solid race every time. He was fifth in the BetBright and then sixth in the Festival Plate, both off a mark of 140.
"We think an extended two and a half miles is probably his trip. We are not quite so sure he is as good at three miles."
Last year's winner Voix D'Eau (Harry Fry) could bid to become the first dual winner of the race since 1990 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Norton's Coin took the spoils in 1989 and 1991. Stablemate Henryville, who was not disgraced when eighth in the Topham Chase last week, has also been entered by Fry.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has put in last year's runner-up Art Mauresque andVibrato Valtat, a three-time winner in this grade a couple of years ago, while Nigel Twiston-Davies also has Foxtail Hill, winner of the G3 Hugo's Restaurant Barbados Trophy Handicap Chase on Festival Trials Day in January, in alongside Ballykan.
Other interesting entries include Johnny Henderson Grand Annual sixth Calipto(Venetia Williams) and Yorkist (Dan Skelton), who was fourth in the G3 Red Rum Handicap Chase at Aintree last week.
The feature hurdle on the card is the £20,000 Arkells Brewery Handicap Hurdle (3.15pm, 32 entries) over an extended two and a half miles.
Nicky Henderson, leading the 2016/2017 trainers' championship, is responsible for five entries, including classy five-year-olds Fixe Le Kap and Protek Des Flos, while 2015 Coral Cup victor Aux Ptits Soins and 2014 County Hurdle scorer Lac Fontana may line up for Paul Nicholls.
There could be some talented novices on show in the opening £16,000 Citipost Novices' Hurdle (2.05pm, 23 entries). Entries for the extended two and a half mile contest include William Henry (Nicky Henderson), who was second to Wholestone in a G2 contest on Festival Trials Day, Bags Groove (Harry Fry) and the unbeaten Mr Big Shot (David Pipe).
The April Meeting continues on Thursday, April 20, with a seven-race programme restricted to mares.
After racing on Thursday, four equine superstars - Sprinter Sacre, Valegro, Big Star and Chilli Morning - will parade before the Pertemps Champions Willberry Charity Race at 6.05pm run in aid of the Bob Champion Cancer Trust and Hannah's Willberry Wonder Pony charity.