Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy are the headline acts in a record 33 entries for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on March 11th.
Last year’s two-mile sensation Sire De Grugy has not been seen since April after a hip injury curtailed his season, while Sprinter Sacre, who won the race in spectacular style in 2013, has been absent for over a year but is on track to return in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday week.
National Hunt fans will be salivating by the prospect of the last four winners doing battle as Finian’s Rainbow and Sizing Europe also appear on the list.
Gary Moore is open to running Sire De Grugy over hurdles, should his intended comeback in Newbury's Game Spirit Chase on February 7th fall victim to the weather.
Moore is desperate to get a run into his stable star.
The West Sussex handler said: “We’ve got until February 7th to get him ready for the Game Spirit and he’ll go there unless the ground is firm, and we all know there’s no chance of that.
“If disaster struck and the weather did claim Newbury’s meeting, we’d have to do something with him because there is no chance we could go straight to the Betway Champion Chase without a prep run.
“I could even look to run him in a hurdle race, if necessary, but fingers crossed we don’t have to go down that route.”
Sprinter Sacre's trainer Nicky Henderson has not entered Simonsig, who has not raced since winning the Arkle in March 2013 and is not expected to run this season.
As well as Sizing Europe, trainer Henry de Bromhead can call upon Kempton winner Special Tiara and Moscow Mannon. De Bromhead said: “Sizing Europe is well and in good form. We are just taking it one race at a time with him at the moment, but it is better to be entered at Cheltenham rather than not.
“He is in the Clarence House at Ascot next weekend but I’m not sure if he will travel over. It will all depend on the ground.
“The Champion Chase is the aim for Special Tiara. He has come out of Kempton very well and is in great form.
“We were delighted with him there, it was a brilliant performance and it was great to get him back on the winning trail again. We still need to think about whether or not he will run again as I haven’t given it a lot of thought yet.
“We were happy with Moscow Mannon in Leopardstown and he seems to be in good form after the race. He will probably go for the Champion Chase as well and I would be hopeful of a good performance.”
Tingle Creek scorer Dodging Bullets is one of several entries, which includes Al Ferof, Hinterland and Mr Mole, for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
has entered Champagne Fever, Twinlight, Ballycasey and Turban, but not the novice Vautour, while Don Cossack has been put in by
Compatriot Hidden Cyclone has also been given the option by Shark Hanlon.
Alan King, successful with Voy Por Ustedes in 2007, has two strong contenders in Uxizandre and Balder Succes, while Nicky Richards may run Eduard and Simply Ned.
Cue Card is on course for a bid to regain his crown in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival after featuring among 39 entries.
Colin Tizzard’s charge was a brilliant winner of the Grade One contest in 2013, but missed last season’s Festival through injury.
The nine-year-old has been slightly disappointing since returning to action, finishing down the field in the Haldon Gold Cup, the Betfair Chase and the King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day and is set to come back in trip.
Tizzard said: “The Ryanair Chase is the target for Cue Card. It looks as though in the very top grade that he does not stay (three miles), so that’s why we are coming back in trip.”