Pentland Hills is the star name among 10 entries for the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Successful on his jumping debut at Plumpton in February, Nicky Henderson’s four-year-old then caused a minor upset in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, before proving that victory no fluke when doubling his Grade One tally at Aintree.
Pentland Hills is the general 7-1 third-favourite for the Champion Hurdle in March ahead of his intended seasonal reappearance at Prestbury Park this weekend.
Henderson has also entered Call Me Lord, who was narrowly beaten by If The Cap Fits on his first start of the campaign in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot last month.
Ch’tibello is a major contender for Dan Skelton. The eight-year-old won the County Hurdle at Cheltenham in March before finishing a close-up third behind Supasundae and Buveur D’Air at Aintree.
The Colin Tizzard-trained Elixir De Nutz has been given the option of making his first start since winning the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in January, although connections have already stated their preference for the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot later in the month.
Trainer Philip Hobbs and owner Terry Warner have combined to win the International Hurdle twice, with Rooster Booster (2002) and Detroit City (2006) both striking gold. This year the same partnership could be represented by last month’s Greatwood Hurdle runner-up Gumball.
Jane Williams’ Monsieur Lecoq was just a neck behind Gumball when third in the Greatwood and could renew rivalry.
Big Blue is a fascinating contender from Australia. Trained in partnership by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, the seven-year-old is set to make his British debut, having won the St Leger at Randwick and the Galleywood Hurdle at Warrnambool in his homeland.
Maher, who previously handled Bashboy – winner of the 2015 Australian Grand National under Ruby Walsh – said: “I was hoping to start him off in something a little bit easier, but the handicapper hasn’t given him a mark, which means we have to run in conditions races.
“It’s not ideal, but there aren’t really any other options for him coming up. We can cruise round and see where he fits in.
“The horse has been over here around a month. His last run was on Melbourne Cup day (November 5) – he travelled over after that.
“It’s a bit different for him. He has his summer coat on and he obviously came into some cold weather, but he seems fine.”
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyandy, Dr Richard Newland’s La Patriote, and Umbrigado from David Pipe’s yard are the other hopefuls.