Envoi Allen, viewed by many this year’s Cheltenham Festival ‘banker’, headlines 25 horses still in contention for Wednesday’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Gordon Elliott’s runner claimed the Champion Bumper at last year’s meeting and is unbeaten in three hurdles runs this term, including two Grade One victories.
He could be joined by stablemate Easywork in the two-mile-five-furlong feature, with Philip Hobbs’ Sporting John next best in the market.
Colin Tizzard’s The Big Breakaway is also well fancied for the home team, while Willie Mullins has five to pick from, headed by Asterion Forlonge and The Big Getaway.
Mullins also has five in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase, with former Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen among the squad after raising the Leopardstown roof when claiming a second Grade One verdict over fences last month.
Allaho and Easy Game are also in contention, but it is the Nicky Henderson-trained Champ who heads the ante-post lists, despite falling at Cheltenham on his most recent start on New Year’s Day.
The Tizzard-trained Copperhead staked his claim with an impressive Ascot win last month and stablemate Slate House – a Grade One winner at Christmas – returns to novice company after being pulled up in the Cotswold Chase.
Minella Indo, last year’s Albert Bartlett winner, is another with leading claims after winning on his second chase start at Navan in January.
Dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll is the key name in the Glenfarclas Chase over the cross-country fences, as he tunes up for a possible hat-trick bid at Aintree in April.
Elliott’s runner will also be trying for a fifth Festival win after landing the last two renewals of this race, along with the National Hunt Chase and Triumph Hurdle during what has been an exceptional career.
This promises to be far from straightforward, however, with Henderson’s Might Bite and French challenger Easysland also on course.
Joseph O’Brien’s A Wave Of The Sea leads the weights with 37 in contention for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, better known as the Fred Winter.
The well-fancied Mick Pastor and Aramax feature for Paul Nicholls and Elliott respectively, while Palladium and Thyme White are also in the mix.
Appreciate It is a short price in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper for Mullins, who has two other contenders among 27 in Ferny Hollow and Five Bar Brian, while Panic Attack, who won for Mullins at Market Rasen in January, is set to make her debut for David Pipe.
Brian Hughes, who is currently leading Richard Johnson in the battle for the jockeys’ title, will team up with Panic Attack for the first time next week, with Tom Scudamore expected to ride Israel Champ.
Pipe said: “Brian Hughes rides her. I discussed it with her owner, Bryan Drew, and we decided to book him.
“Obviously he’s in pole position at the moment and he has got plenty of experience behind him.
“He can also do a light weight, as she only carries 10st 4lb with all her allowances.
“She seems to have settled in with us pretty well and it’s all systems go for next week now.”
L’Ami Serge is the current top-weight in the Coral Cup, which still has 100 entries and a safety limit of just 26.