Native River and Presenting Percy are among 36 horses to stand their ground following the scratchings’ deadline for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The Colin Tizzard-trained Native River saw off Might Bite to claim victory in a pulsating renewal of the blue riband last March, and will not run again before defending his crown next month after connections decided against running in the re-scheduled Denman Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
Presenting Percy – the clear favourite for the Festival feature – is set to be seen in action this weekend, with trainer Pat Kelly aiming his stable star at the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park.
Paul Nicholls has left in King George hero Clan Des Obeaux, Cotswold Chase winner Frodon and Black Corton as his prospective Gold Cup runners.
Willie Mullins has scratched Acapella Bourgeois, Total Recall and Yorkhill. But he still has six contenders as he chases an elusive first Gold Cup win – including Kemboy, Bellshill and Al Boum Photo.
The other horses scratched were 2017 winner Sizing John, Give Me A Copper, Snow Falcon and Valtor.
Last year’s winner Altior is the star name among 18 remaining entries for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, with the Mullins-trained trio of Min, Footpad and Un De Sceaux among the potential rivals to Nicky Henderson’s superstar.
The four horses taken out were Great Field, Ozzie The Oscar, Petit Mouchoir and the late Special Tiara.
Ten horses have been scratched from the Ryanair Chase, leaving 34 horses still in the mix – including Min, Footpad, Ruth Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently and the Henry de Bromhead-trained Monalee.
Those taken out include Sizing John, Yorkhill and Bachasson.
Henderson’s dual winner Buveur D’Air and Gordon Elliott’s brilliant mare Apple’s Jade are two of 24 still in the Unibet Champion Hurdle.
Others still in contention include Laurina and Samcro – with Man Of Plenty, Tombstone and Western Ryder all scratched.
Former winner Unowhatimeanharry and the recently-retired Shaneshill are among seven horses scratched from the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle.
A formidable Mullins squad includes last year’s winner Penhill, while the home team is headed by Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park.
With no horses scratched from the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, the 30 remaining include the heroine of last March – Benie Des Dieux – and Apple’s Jade.