A Plus Tard, Frodon and Min are three of 13 horses confirmed for the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon brought the house down when triumphant in last year’s renewal under a jubilant Bryony Frost, but arguably faces a tougher test this time around, with a couple of top-class Irish raiders in opposition.
Henry de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard made light work of his rivals in handicap company 12 months ago and proved himself a genuine top-class performer when claiming the notable scalp of Chacun Pour Soi on his latest appearance, at Leopardstown in December.
Few would begrudge the Willie Mullins-trained Min a big win in the Cotswolds, having previously found only Altior too strong in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Mullins has also left in Duc Des Genievres, Real Steel and the aforementioned Chacun Pour Soi, although the latter is almost certain to run in a mouthwatering renewal of the Champion Chase 24 hours earlier.
Frodon is joined on the list by a couple of stable companions who also appear Champion Chase-bound in Dynamite Dollars and Politologue.
The potential field is completed by the Venetia Williams-trained Aso, Tom Gretton’s Kauto Riko, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Ascot Chase victor Riders Onthe Storm, Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados and Gordon Elliott’s mare Shattered Love.
The card opens with the Marsh Novices’ Chase, for which 21 have stood their ground.
Mullins still has no less than nine possible runners, including Allaho, Easy Game, Faugheen and Melon.
Elliott’s Samcro and Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies are other potential Irish challengers, while the home team features Olly Murphy’s pair of Brewin’upastorm and Itchy Feet and Nicky Henderson’s Mister Fisher.
Last year’s winner Sire Du Berlais heads 32 going forward in the Pertemps Final, with other leading ante-post fancies Relegate, Phoenix Way and The Storyteller all still in the mix.
Mullins has won each of the four previous renewals of the Daylesford Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and this year has a five-strong team, with Colreevy, Concertista, Dolcita, Yukon Lil and Hook Up left in. Lamarckise, however, is not among the 24 still engaged.
The ante-post market is headed by De Bromhead’s Minella Melody, with Henderson’s Floressa considered the pick of the British contingent.
Noel Meade’s pair of Snow Falcon and Tout Est Permis are the top two in a field of 74 for the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, while Le Breuil and Ravenhill are among 62 confirmed for the Kim Muir.