Kap Auteuil will bid to provide fledgling trainer Toby Lawes with a landmark first Cheltenham winner on Friday.
As the former assistant to Nicky Henderson and long-time work rider of four-time Cheltenham Festival hero Altior, Lawes is no stranger to the hallowed winner’s enclosure at Prestbury Park.
But for the first time since going it alone in 2019, the Surrey-based trainer will head to the home of National Hunt racing with a runner of his own, as Kap Auteuil bids for a fifth successive victory.
The six-year-old lines up in the Paddy Power-sponsored handicap chase over two miles, and Lawes said: “It’s incredibly exciting for us and the owner Andrew Wates, who has had a lot of success over the years and I’m delighted for him to have such a promising, improving horse.
“I have some very fond memories of being at Cheltenham with Altior, obviously.
“We’re not putting too much pressure on this horse, who is going up in grade, but obviously you dream about winning there.
“Hopefully he can go there and run a nice race.”
Having rounded off last season with a hat-trick of victories, Kap Auteuil picked up where he left off with an eight-length success on his return to action at Stratford last month.
“We were absolutely delighted with him at Stratford. He stayed the two-mile-three (furlongs) really well and when they’re going up in grade they’ve got to stay strongly,” Lawes continued.
“In the better two-mile races they’ll certainly go an end-to-end gallop and there is certainly going to be a lot of pace in the race on Friday, so I think it’s very promising that he stays so well.”
One of the chief rivals to Kap Auteuil is Stolen Silver, who produced a dominant front-running display on his first start for Sam Thomas at Market Rasen four weeks ago.
Like Lawes, Thomas is wary of getting carried away.
He said: “He’s in good shape. He’s got to step up on what he did the last day, but we’re happy with him at home and I hope he puts up a nice performance for us again.
“He loves jumping and he’s a keen-going sort, so the drop back to two miles is perfect for him really.”
Other contenders include Magic Saint, who won the race 12 months ago for Paul Nicholls, and Editeur Du Gite from Gary Moore’s yard.