By Geoffrey Riddle at Kempton
Harry Fry admitted that he is under pressure to produce the goods with BetVictor Gold Cup favourite Kylemore Lough after the eight-year-old was among the 22 confirmations for Saturday’s November Meeting showpiece at Cheltenham.
Kylemore Lough won eight races from 16 runs when trained by both Richard and Kerry Lee, and included the Grade One Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse in March 2016.
Kylemore Lough did not win in four starts last season and was moved to Fry’s Seaborough base at the end of the season.
The horse will shoulder 11st 7lb on Saturday, although the weights will rise should Lee see fit to take out 11st 12lb topweight Top Gamble, and is the general 7-1 favourite for the 2m 4f contest.
“The owners rang up at the end of May and asked whether I wanted to train the horse,” Fry said on Monday.
“It is a tricky situation, as you know what it is like when the ball is on the other foot. We are in the business of training horses though and clearly he is a high-class horse and we immediately said, ‘yes’.
"We have been very happy with him since we got him. He was a high-class horse with the Lees and now the pressure is on to reproduce the same sort of form he did for them."
Kylemore Lough has won once on his seasonal bow and finished a distant third and second at the start of his two previous campaigns, but Fry believes the key is his charge’s freshness. He has not been seen since he was beaten by Fox Norton by over 17 lengths in the Grade One Melling Chase in April.
Kylemore Lough will run off a handicap mark of 154, which is 2lbs lower than when fifth to Frodon in last season’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Prestbury Park.
“We gave him a break and started afresh with him,” he said. “We have been grafting away at home and have been happy with his progress.
“He was topweight in the Caspian Caviar off 2lbs higher than what he goes in to Saturday’s race. He has a good record fresh and that is why we have targeted the BetVictor.
“Having run so well in this type of race last year it looks an ideal opportunity to start off.”
Go Conquer and Cloudy Dream were both prominent in the ante-post lists but did not feature at the confirmation stage. Leading ante-post fancies Tully East (11st 1lb), Foxtail Lad (11st) and Starchitect (10st 11lb) are still in contention but Paul Nicholls underlined that Clan Des Obeaux, who later finished second to Whisper in a match here, would not run.
"This is the ideal race to run Romain De Senam in as he needs a real fast-run race, which he will get at Cheltenham, and he is in good shape,” he said.
"Le Prezien is in good order. He is rated 150 which is quite high. He is an improving game young horse that gets the trip so he must have a chance."
He said: "Theinval was unlucky all last year. One day we will get it right. He ran very nicely at Ascot over two miles the day but this is his trip.
"Days Of Heaven has got himself into it, but he is too high (in the handicap). He is a horse that loves very fast ground.
"Gold Present needs a few to come out, so we might go for something else. It's his trip and he ran a very good race in the novice handicap at the Festival last year."
The going at Cheltenham is currently good to soft all over, and the executive are not expected to water the course in the lead-up to the three-day meeting that starts on Friday.
“It is going to be a dry week,” clerk of the course Simon Claisse said.
“We are going to be a combination of good to soft to good across the three days.
“Midweek we are expecting temperatures to 0-1C. We are now good to soft all around and good on the cross country. We will get no more than half a millimeter over the next few days.”