Frodon heads the weights on 11st 12lb for the £130,000 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (1.55pm, 37 entries), run over an extended two and a half miles on day two of The International at Cheltenham, Saturday, December 15th.
Frodon (Paul Nicholls), who landed this race as a four-year-old in 2016, ran a gallant race under top-weight on his latest start when going down by two lengths to Baron Alco (Gary Moore, 11st) in the BetVictor Gold Cup at The November Meeting.
Baron Alco has been raised 6lb to a rating of 152 and could become the fourth horse to win both the BetVictor Gold Cup and Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in the same season, after Pegwell Bay (1988), Senor El Betrutti (1997) and Exotic Dancer (2006).
Baron Alco’s trainer Gary Moore is also responsible for JLT Novices’ Chase third Benatar (10st 11lb), who finished fourth in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot on November 24, and three-time chase scorer Casse Tete (10st).
West Sussex-based Moore said: “I have been very pleased with Baron Alco since the BetVictor Gold Cup and the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup is his big target now.
“He is 6lb higher in the handicap and whether or not he can cope with that will depend on what else turns up on the day. If it is a similar sort of race to the BetVictor Gold Cup, I don’t think 6lb would stop him.
“Having said that, I am well aware the way he ridden last time was an advantage because he was kept out of trouble in what was an incident-packed race, and there was probably a couple of hard luck stories in behind.
“The ground all comes the same to him. He is in amazing horse with a great attitude and he will go on anything bar extremes.
“Benatar is still under consideration for Caspian Caviar Gold Cup after his run at Ascot, but I am 99 per cent sure that Casse Tete won’t run.”
Guitar Pete (Nicky Richards, 9st 13lb), who stayed on to take third behind Baron Alco last month, gained his biggest success over fences so far when taking the 2017 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup by two and a three-quarter lengths.
Guitar Pete and Frodon have the chance to emulate Poquelin, who is the only multiple winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup thanks to back-to-back victories in 2009 and 2010.
Frodon’s trainer Paul Nicholls has seven entries in total, the most of any handler. They also include Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase victor Le Prezien (11st 2lb) and San Benedeto (10st 12lb).
Rather Be (Nicky Henderson, 10st 11lb) and the mare Happy Diva (Kerry Lee, 10st 2lb) both contested the BetVictor Gold Cup and were travelling well when being brought down four fences from home.
Venetia Williams has three entries to choose from, headed by 2017 Ryanair Chase third Aso (11st 6lb) who was back in the winner’s enclosure on November 30 when annexing a handicap chase at Newbury.
Other in-form entries include War Sound (Philip Hobbs, 10st 8lb) and Mr Medic (Robert Walford, 10st 5lb), the respective winners of competitive handicap chases at Aintree and Ascot recently, plus impressive Wetherby victor Catamaran Du Seuil (Dr Richard Newland, 10st 4lb).
The five-day confirmation stage for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup is at noon on Monday, December 10th.