Huntingdon Racecourse will stage the most valuable mares’ chase of the British jump racing season this week.

The Listed Smarkets Lady Protectress Mares' Chase is the highlight of a six-race card at the local track on Thursday.

The value of the race has been increased to £75,000 for its third staging - and the winner will earn almost £43,000 of the bumper pot.

The inaugural race in 2016 even attracted a runner from Willie Mullins' powerful stable in Ireland, but the prize-money stayed on this side of the Irish Sea with victory for Emily Gray from Kim Bailey's yard.

The 2017 renewal was then taken by Antartica de Thaix for ex-champion trainer Paul Nicholls and the reigning champion could well be back to defend her crown.

Antartica de Thaix features among 10 entries for the Thursday spectacle and is sure to be strongly fancied to deliver another success.

The highest-rated horse entered is Mia's Storm, who reeled off four successive wins for trainer Alan King before tumbling in the big Kauto Star Novices' Chase on Boxing Day.

Rene's Girl, who struck in a similar mares' Listed event at Doncaster last month, represents the successful sibling Skelton team of trainer Dan and jockey Harry, while Desert Queen is a standing dish at this sort of level for trainer Harry Fry. She chased home Antartica de Thaix in last year's contest.

Huntingdon Racecourse general manager Liam Johnson said: "We are delighted to be staging such a prestigious event in the British horse racing calendar - one which will put Huntingdon Racecourse in the spotlight this week.

"The entries for the race are excellent and we are thrilled that Antartica De Thaix is poised to defend her crown. It is also great that the mare sent off as favourite for the race last year - Desert Queen - who finished second, is returning with the aim of going one better this time around."

The first race goes off at 1.50pm with the closing contest scheduled for 5.15pm.

Main Enclosure admission for adults is £10 when purchased in advance, with prices rising to £15 on the day. Accompanied under 18s enter free of charge. Tickets can be purchased at http://huntingdon.thejockeyclub.co.uk or by calling 0844 579 3007.

And there's also the chance for racegoers to pick up a few Cheltenham tips with a Festival Preview Evening taking place from 6.15pm. Entry is £10 per person.