Stable companions Footpad and Un De Sceaux are among 12 horses declared for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.
Footpad was the undoubted star of the two-mile novice chasing division last season – winning each of his five starts, including the Arkle Trophy at Prestbury Park last March.
The current campaign has not gone to plan thus far – with the seven-year-old falling on his seasonal debut at Naas before being mowed down late by Simply Ned at Leopardstown over Christmas – but he is still the clear favourite for Thursday’s two-mile-five-furlong Grade One.
Willie Mullins also runs the admirable Un De Sceaux – winner of this race in 2017 but beaten at odds-on by Balko Des Flos in last year’s renewal.
Balko Des Flos is back to defend his crown as one of three runners for Henry de Bromhead – the others being recent Red Mills Chase winner Monalee and outsider Sub Lieutenant.
Road To Respect is a leading contender for Noel Meade after connections elected against a second tilt at the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup – in which he finished fourth last year.
Eddie Harty’s Coney Island and Gordon Elliott’s The Storyteller complete a formidable Irish challenge.
The home team is made up of the Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon, Venetia Williams’ Aso, Nicky Henderson’s Terrefort and Charbel from Kim Bailey’s yard.