Bristol De Mai faces seven opponents as he bids to return to top form in the £100,000 Grade 2 BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase (2.25pm), the centrepiece of an excellent seven-race card at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day tomorrow, Saturday, January 27.
The three mile, one-furlong contest is a leading trial for the G1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup at The Festival in March.
Bristol De Mai (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Daryl Jacob) started this campaign with two impressive successes, including a 57-length demolition of his rivals in the G1 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November, but was well below that form on his latest start when sixth behind Might Bite in the G1 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
Lightly-raced chaser American (Harry Fry/Noel Fehily) also has a point to prove, having pulled up when sent off favourite for the Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase at Newbury on December 2.
Tea For Two (Nick Williams/Lizzie Kelly), who lowered the colours of Cue Card in Aintree's G1 Betway Bowl in April, ran right up to his best last time out when third behind Might Bite at Kempton Park.
Jane Williams, owner and assistant trainer of Tea For Two, said today: "The last time Tea For Two ran at Cheltenham [in the Gold Cup], he fell at the second.
"We have got to get over this issue of Cheltenham because if he does not run well there tomorrow, then the Gold Cup is not really an option.
"But there is no pressure and hopefully he has a clear run round and then we can see where he ends up.
"When he won the G1 at Aintree, it was on spring ground so I guess the ground might not be ideal, but he has won on testing ground. He should be OK."
Connections of Definitly Red (Brian Ellison/Danny Cook) are hoping he too can put down a marker for The Festival following his comfortable victory in the G2 Many Clouds Chase at Aintree on December 9.
The BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase line-up is completed by 2016 Grand National runner-up The Last Samuri (Kim Bailey/David Bass), plus Perfect Candidate (Fergal O'Brien/Paddy Brennan) and Theatre Guide (Colin Tizzard/Harry Cobden), both winners over the course and distance, as well as Singlefarmpayment (Tom George/Adrian Heskin).
Exciting six-year-old Finian's Oscar (Colin Tizzard/Bryan Cooper) returns to hurdles for the £60,000 G2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle (3.35pm, 10 runners) over three miles.
He was a two-time G1 victor in novices' hurdles last season and has succeeded in two of his four starts over fences so far this season.
Wholestone (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Daryl Jacob) has not finished out of the first three in six starts at Cheltenham and bagged his fourth win at the track in the G2 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle on New Year's Day.
Agrapart (Nick Williams/Lizzie Kelly) finished three and a quarter lengths behind Wholestone in second on New Year's Day, the race in which he defeated L'Ami Serge by a head in 2017.
Jane Williams added: "Agrapart loves Cheltenham and his two career best runs have come in the Relkeel Hurdle - he won it the first year and was second this year.
"The ground is soft, which he loves, and the step up to three miles should not be a problem."
G2 Long Distance Hurdle winner Beer Goggles (Richard Johnson) has his first start for Kayley Woollacott who takes over the license following the sad death of her husband Richard on Tuesday.
Beer Goggles will run in Richard's honour tomorrow and Kayley has established a donation page dedicated to his memory. Donations will be split between three charities - Mind, the Injured Jockeys Fund and Devon Air Ambulance. The website can be accessed here - https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROSomeoneSpecialPage?pageUrl=RichardWoollacott
Other notable runners include Aintree G1 scorer The Worlds End (Tom George/Adrian Heskin) and the mare Colin's Sister (Fergal O'Brien/Paddy Brenna), who defeated Wholestone in the G2 West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby earlier in the campaign.
Festival Trials Day begins with the £32,000 G2 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial (12.40pm, six runners) over an extended two miles.
The exciting Apple's Shakira (Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty) puts her unbeaten record on the line as she bids to cement her position as ante-post favourite for the G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival.
The four-year-old has enjoyed two impressive starts in Britain, both of which came at Cheltenham, and she benefits from the fillies' allowance against her five rivals in Saturday's contest.
The field also includes Elixir De Nutz (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson), who has his first run in Britain since landing a contest at Argentan, France, for Guy Cherel in October, Look My Way (John Quinn/Tom Scudamore), successful by 10 lengths at Ludlow last time, and Erick Le Rouge (Nick Williams/Lizzie Kelly), fourth in two starts at Bangor and Newbury under Rules.
The £27,500 Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase (1.15pm, seven runners) over an extended two and a half-miles has attracted an excellent field, headed by top-weight Sizing Tennessee (Colin Tizzard/Bryan Cooper, 11st 12lb). A six-length winner at Cheltenham over an extended three miles in December, the 10-year-old finished a neck second to Yanworth at Prestbury Park on New Year's Day in the G2 BetBright Dipper Novices' Chase.
Betfair Hurdle winner Ballyandy (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 11st 10lb) will have the services of Noel Fehily as he bids to get back on the winning trail, having finished 12 lengths behind Yanworth at Cheltenham on New Year's Day.
Full Irish (Emma Lavelle/Nick Schofield, 11st 2lb), a seven length winner at Lingfield in November, War Sound (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson, 10st 11lb), who has yet to win in four races over fences, and Theatre Territory (Warren Greatrex/Mr Sam Waley-Cohen, 10st 7lb), a length second at Cheltenham in December, are among the contenders.
Valuable handicap action happens in the £75,000 Crest Nicholson Handicap Chase (1.50pm, 14 entries) over an extended two and a half miles. The field is headed by top-weight Frodon (Paul Nicholls/Bryony Frost, 11st 12lb), second in a Listed event at Ascot last month, Shantou Flyer (Richard Hobson/James Bowen, 11st 8lb), who was a one and three-quarter length third to Ballyhill (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Jamie Bargary, 10st 10lb) over course and distance in the G3 BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on New Year's Day and King's Odyssey (Evan Williams/Barry Geraghty, 10st 11lb), third to Guitar Pete in the G3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December.
Coo Star Sivola (Nick Williams/Lizzie Kelly, 10st 7lb), a creditable three and three-quarter length second to Kalonrda in the Ryman Novices' Chase at Prestbury Park in December, and O O Seven (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville, 11st 10lb), in the frame in competitive handicap chases at Newbury and Ascot in December, have chances, while another contender is Drumlee Sunset (Tom George/Tom Scudamore, 10st 6lb), who was second on his first start for Tom George at Doncaster in December.
There is further G2 action with the £32,000 Ballymore Classic Novices' Hurdle (3.00pm), which has attracted a stellar field of nine runners for the extended two and a half miles. Warren Greatrex's Mulcahys Hill (Adrian Heskin, 11st 5lb) sets the standard with a rating of 147 following a short-head defeat at the hands of Poetic Rhythm in the G1 Challow Novices' Hurdle at Newbury on December 30.
The intriguing race includes Slate House (Colin Tizzard/Harry Cobden, 11st 10lb), a dual winner at Cheltenham who finished fourth in a G2 event at Ascot last time, the progressive Tikkanbar (Neil Mulholland/Noel Fehily, 11st 10lb), successful over course and distance in the Listed Ballymore Novices' Hurdle on New Year's Day, Black Op (Tom George/Adrian Heskin, 11st 5lb), a facile 17 length winner at Doncaster last month, and Nicky Henderson's duo Santini (Jeremiah McGrath, 11st 5lb) and Pacific De Baune (Nico de Boinville, 11st 5lb), who both tasted success on their Rules' debuts.
Tomorrow's racing concludes with the £27,500 Steel Plate & Sections Handicap Hurdle (4.10pm, 12 runners), with top-weight Remiluc (Chris Gordon/Harry Reed, 11st 12lb) heading the runners for the extended two-mile contest.
The going at Cheltenham is currently Soft.
There was two millimetres of rain overnight. Today is forecast to be dry.
Four to five millimetres of rain is forecast for tomorrow morning, but it should be dry in the afternoon with temperatures of up to 12 degrees Celsius.