Defending champion Frodon and ante-post favourite A Plus Tard are among a final field of eight for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.
Frodon’s hard-fought success from the re-opposing Aso brought the house down at last year’s Festival, part of a ‘golden hour’ of unforgettable action which was capped by Paisley Park’s Stayers’ Hurdle victory.
Bryony Frost’s win on Paul Nicholls’ front-runner was a first Grade One success over jumps at the Cheltenham Festival by any female jockey.
Henry De Bromhead’s A Plus Tard was a hugely impressive winner of the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Festival 12 months ago – while Willie Mullins’ Festival regular Min is also prominent in the betting on Thursday.
The hugely-improved Riders Onthe Storm, for Nigel Twiston-Davies, and Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados are two more significant contenders – with Mullins’ Duc Des Genievres, successful in last year’s Arkle, and Gordon Elliott’s former Festival winner Shattered Love completing the field.
Faugheen is a returning hero sure to carry near universal goodwill as he bids for his third Festival victory at the age of 12, against 11 opponents in the Marsh Novices’ Chase.
Mullins’ 2015 Champion Hurdle winner has had his injury issues since, but has made a remarkable success of a switch to chasing so late in his career and will be bidding for his fourth win of the season and third successive Grade One.
Among those in Faugheen’s way are stablemates Bapaume, also in the same ownership, Melon and Tornado Flyer.
Elliott’s Samcro seeks again to regain his once mighty reputation – while the home challenge is led by Olly Murphy’s Scilly Isles winner Itchy Feet, Nicky Henderson’s Mister Fisher and Reserve Tank, for Colin Tizzard.
Jonjo O’Neill jnr will be riding prolific mare Annie Mc for his father, and Scilly Isles runner-up Midnight Shadow represents Sue Smith.