Star mares Epatante and Honeysuckle are amongst a closing discipline of 10 horses declared for the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Nicky Henderson’s Epatante is the defending champion, having supplied her coach with a file eighth victory 12 months in the past.
Nevertheless, the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old will return to the Cotswolds on a restoration mission on Tuesday after struggling a shock defeat within the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Contrastingly, the Henry de Bromhead-trained Honeysuckle will put her unbeaten file on the road beneath Rachael Blackmore – who’s bidding to develop into the primary feminine rider to say Champion Hurdle glory.
Honeysuckle produced what’s broadly thought to be the most effective efficiency of her profession to this point when powering clear in final month’s Irish Champion Hurdle and is the marginal favorite to observe up at Cheltenham, the place she gained the Mares’ Hurdle final season.
Talking on Racing TV’s Luck on Sunday programme, Honeysuckle’s proprietor Kenny Alexander stated: “I am fairly pumped up for it! I might all the time be pumped up, as a result of I believe it is the most effective week of the 12 months, however significantly this 12 months – and significantly for the massive one on Tuesday.
“I am very excited and actually wanting ahead to it – and fairly assured.
“I am fortunate to have a horse pretty much as good as that (Honeysuckle) who’s going into the Champion Hurdle as favorite. If you cannot take pleasure in this form of event, you should not personal horses, I do not assume.
“She’s by no means been crushed, and that clearly fills you with confidence. I believe her final run was spectacular, though there have been just a few horses that did not fairly run to type and can most likely run materially higher on Tuesday.
“Henry appears fairly assured. He is all the time very cautious, however he appears very assured in her.”
Alexander added: “She’s 9-4, so she’s bought a 30 per cent likelihood of profitable, (however) that does imply she’s bought 70 per cent likelihood of dropping!
“She’s favorite, and I believe she ought to be, however it is going to be an enormous battle to win the race.
“Regardless of what occurs on Tuesday, she’s been an excellent mare to personal – and I have been very fortunate to have her.
“I believe it is going to be a implausible Competition – I can not anticipate it actually.”
De Bromhead has a second string to his bow in Aspire Tower, whereas Willie Mullins runs final 12 months’s runner-up Sharjah, in addition to Saldier and intriguing French recruit James Du Berlais.
Denise Foster’s Abacadabras completes the Irish problem.
The house crew is headed by Gary Moore’s steady star Goshen, who agonisingly exited on the closing flight when set for a wide-margin win within the Triumph Hurdle final 12 months – and bought his season again on observe with victory within the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton lately.
Epatante’s Christmas Hurdle conqueror Silver Streak (Evan Williams) and Not So Sleepy (Hughie Morrison) are the opposite hopefuls.