Fusil Raffles heads a three-strong team for Nicky Henderson in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
The Seven Barrows handler has saddled a record eight previous winners of the Grade One contest, including each of the last two in Buveur D’Air and Verdana Blue.
Verdana Blue returns to defend her crown, having inflicted a shock defeat on stablemate Buveur D’Air last season.
The seven-year-old makes her first competitive appearance since the spring, having been bought by Coolmore powerhouse Michael Tabor for 370,000 guineas during the intervening period. Verdana Blue will carry the colours of his wife, Doreen, on Boxing Day.
Henderson’s first string appears to be Fusil Raffles, who rounded off his juvenile campaign with a Grade One success at Punchestown in the spring – and made a successful reappearance in last month’s Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
The third Henderson runner is the JP McManus-owned mare Epatante, who could hardly have been more impressive on her first start of the campaign at Newbury’s Ladbrokes Trophy meeting.
All 10 horses left in at the confirmation stage have been declared.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyandy and Dan Skelton’s Ch’tibello renew rivalry after finishing second and third respectively in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham less than a fortnight ago.
The other contenders are Colin Tizzard’s International Hurdle seventh Elixir De Nutz, the Paul Nicholls-trained Getaway Trump, Fergal O’Brien’s new recruit Quick Grabim, Evan Williams’ Silver Streak and Australian raider Big Blue.