Coo Star Sivola and Tiger Roll, who were both victorious at The Festival™ presented by Magners in March, headline the excellent entries for day one of The International at Cheltenham, Friday, December 14.
Coo Star Sivola (Nick Williams) edged out Shantou Flyer in the G3 Ultima Handicap Chase last season and could aim for another major victory at the Home of Jump Racing in the £60,000 G3 CF Roberts 25 Years Of Sponsorship Handicap Chase (2.30pm).
A total of 19 entries for the three and a quarter-mile contest also includes Robinsfirth, who stayed on well to score by two lengths in the race 12 months ago. The lightly-raced nine-year-old, trained by Colin Tizzard, missed the rest of the campaign through injury.
Joe Tizzard, assistant trainer to his father, revealed today: "Robinsfirth had a little bit of heat in his leg last season but was back in full work at the start of the term and is in good form.
"The owners - Christine Knowles & Wendy Carter - like going to Cheltenham, so he may run there next week. He is ready to run and will enjoy the soft ground.
"He is a chaser with plenty of ability but he is a bit fragile."
Other contenders include the last two winners of the G3 BetVictor.com Handicap Chase at The November Meeting - Perfect Candidate (Fergal O'Brien), successful in 2017, and this year's victor Rock The Kasbah (Philip Hobbs) - plus the 2017 Ultima Handicap Chase runner-up Singlefarmpayment (Tom George).
Tiger Roll (Gordon Elliott IRE) gained a rare treble at The Festival™ presented by when taking the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase before going on to glory in the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree the following month.
The eight-year-old, fourth behind Josies Orders (Enda Bolger IRE) over the Cross Country course on his seasonal return at The November Meeting, headlines 16 entries for the £35,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase (3.05pm).
Elliott has also entered Randox Health Grand National third Bless The Wings and Lamb Or Cod, while G1 winner Ballycasey could line up for Ireland's champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins.
Enda Bolger, who has won this contest a record seven times, has two entries. In addition to four-time course and distance winner Josies Orders, Bolger could also be represented by My Hometown, a recent winner over the banks course at Punchestown.
The Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase is the final leg of the Crystal Cup (https://crystalcup.org), a pan-European series comprising 10 cross country races. French handler Patrice Quinton, who currently heads the trainer standings, may run Vol Noir De Kerser.
Further representation from France could come from Amazing Comedy (David Cottin), who won the Grand Steeple Chase-Cross-Country de Compiegne, the penultimate race in the Crystal Cup, on November 9.
Elixir De Nutz (Colin Tizzard), winner of the G2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle at The November Meeting, features in 17 entries for the opening £15,000 British Stallion Studs EBF "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle (12.10pm, 2m 1f).
His rivals may include impressive Taunton scorer Southfield Stone (Paul Nicholls), Al Dancer (Nigel Twiston-Davies), who has won both of his starts over hurdles, plus the McNeill family-owned pair of Seddon (Tom George) and I K Brunel (Olly Murphy).
Kris Spin (Kerry Lee), a valuable handicap hurdle scorer at Kelso on his latest appearance, and Keeper Hill (Warren Greatrex), successful at G2 level over fences last season, head 20 entries for the concluding £22,000 CITIPOST Handicap Hurdle (3.40pm, 3m).
A seven-race card also includes the £15,000 Catesby Handicap Hurdle (1.20pm, 18 entries), and the £15,000 CF Roberts Electrical + Mechanical Services Mares' Handicap Chase (1.55pm, 19 entries).
The £25,000 International Decorative Services Novices' Chase (12.45pm) has re-opened until 11am tomorrow, Sunday, December 9, after attracting seven entries.
The International continues on Saturday, December 15, when the feature contest is the £140,000 G2 Unibet International Hurdle, a leading trial for the G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle at The Festival™ presented by Magners in March.
Last year's race saw three-time G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours edge out The New One and Melon in a pulsating finish, and the winner is due to return for another crack at the G2 contest next month.
Further highlights on a seven-race card include the £130,000 G3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and the £32,000 G2 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.
The going at Cheltenham is currently
Chase and Hurdle Course: Good to Soft, Good in places
Cross Country Course: Good
Conditions are forecast to remain unsettled.