Buveur D’Air is reported to be fighting fit as he prepares to retain his crown in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday.
The seven-year-old, trained by Nicky Henderson, will arrive at Prestbury Park after winning all his three starts so far this season, as he bids to become the first back-to-back winner since Hardy Eustace in 2005.
“He’s in good form. Nicky is happy with him and fingers crossed everything goes well with him,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.
The owner and trainer are also represented by Festival regular My Tent Or Yours, who has finished second in this race three times, including 12 months ago.
“My Tent is in in good form and working nicely,” said Berry.
“It would be nice to see him stepping out there again this year.”
Henderson is also responsible for Charli Parcs and Verdana Blue as he goes for a seventh win in the race.
The 15 confirmations for the two-mile hurdling showpiece feature Elgin, who has been supplemented.
Alan King’s six-year-old has enjoyed an excellent season thus far, landing a competitive handicap at Ascot, the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton from five starts.
Connections confirmed after his latest triumph that a shot at Champion Hurdle glory was under serious consideration and he was added to the field at a cost of £20,000 at Wednesday’s confirmation stage.
King said: “I think he deserves to take his chance. He is rated 161 and that is higher than three of the first six last year and you can’t run in a handicap now off that mark.
“He goes in any sort of ground. If you take the favourite (Buveur D’Air) out, it is wide open after that. He has progressed right the way through.
“He is much more the finished article this year. I would have said he learned a lot from running in the Supreme last season. He had never been so quick and I think that made a man of him and he did very well through the summer. He was scoped on Monday and that was all good and he worked well this morning.”
Willie Mullins still has a formidable hand, with 2015 Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen joined by stablemates Melon, Min, Wicklow Brave and Yorkhill.
Gordon Elliott has left in Mick Jazz and Apple’s Jade, although the latter is expected to contest the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle later in the afternoon.
Dan Skelton’s Ch’tibello, Henry de Bromhead’s Identity Thief and the Evan Williams-trained John Constable complete the list of possible runners.
Mullins’s ante-post favourite Getabird is one of 28 horses confirmed for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Ireland’s champion trainer has won the Festival curtain-raiser three times in the last five years and a record five times overall.
Getabird is unbeaten in four starts and was a brilliant winner of the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown in January, a race Mullins inmates Vautour and Douvan claimed en route to Supreme glory.
The Closutton handler has whittled his potential team down to three, with Sharjah and Whiskey Sour his other representatives.
Elliott has left in Mengli Khan and the much-vaunted Samcro, although the latter appears likely to contest the longer Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday.
The home team includes Amy Murphy’s Betfair Hurdle hero Kalashnikov, Tom George’s Tolworth Hurdle winner Summerville Boy and Claimantakinforgan, who is Henderson’s only challenger.
The Mullins-trained Footpad will face a maximum of eight rivals in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy.
The six-year-old is three from three since having his attentions turned towards chasing and is a hot favourite to add to his tally at the chief expense of old rival Petit Mouchoir.
Mullins has also left in Kemboy and the only mare in the field Asthuria.
Henderson’s Brain Power and Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados are also in contention along with North Hill Harvey, Robinshill and the Elliott-trained Tombstone.
Last year’s winner Apple’s Jade is the headline act in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle.