Two-time Grand National winner Tiger Roll is set to make his first start of the new year at Navan on Saturday after featuring among the final declarations for the Navan Handicap Hurdle (1.40).
It came as a surprise to plenty when the Aintree and Cheltenham Festival legend was given an entry in the €45,000 contest over 2m4f, considering he had not run in a handicap hurdle since the 2016 Punchestown festival and the Boyne Hurdle had been mooted as his next target.
Connections will be seeking an improved display from the 12-year-old's Aintree comeback last month when he was pulled up in the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase.
Tiger Roll did not have a published handicap mark in Ireland at the time of his entry but has been allocated a hurdle rating of 145, meaning he must give weight to his rivals on Saturday.
Amateur rider Rob James, whose 7lb claim has been utilised by trainer Gordon Elliott on several occasions this season, has been booked to partner Tiger Roll for the first time, bringing the veteran's weight down from 11st 12lb.
The dual Grand National hero sported blinkers on each of his last three starts, including when blitzing his rivals in Cheltenham's Cross Country Chase by 18 lengths in March.
He now reverts to the cheekpieces he last wore when down the field in the 2021 Boyne Hurdle, as well as his usual tongue-tie.
The five-time Cheltenham Festival winner is priced between 5-1 and 13-2 for a repeat win in the Cross Country, while his odds range from 25-1 to 40-1 for the National.
Shady Operator, who also features prominently in the Cross Country ante-post market and is available between 7-1 and 10-1, was one of 16 declared to take on the popular gelding.
Al Boum Photo given Galmoy Hurdle option
Dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo has been handed a surprise entry for next Thursday's Grade 2 John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle (2.05).
Willie Mullins suggested in the aftermath of the ten-year-old's winning return at Tramore on New Year's Day that he would ideally like to get one more run into his festival hope before his March target.
A visit to Gowran Park next week would be Al Boum Photo's first appearance over hurdles since the 2017 Punchestown festival when fifth - splitting Monalee and Presenting Percy - in the 3m Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle (Grade 1).
Joe and Marie Donnelly's top talent would not be the only Gold Cup candidate in recent years to warm up for the Blue Riband event by contesting the Galmoy Hurdle.
Presenting Percy memorably won the Grade 2 event on his seasonal return in 2019 before failing to fire in Cheltenham highlight as 100-30 favourite.
Mullins, who has won the Galmoy on a record four occasions, also handed entries to Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle favourite Klassical Dream, 2020 Triumph Hurdle winner Burning Victory and Mr Adjudicator, who returned from a 879-day absence when finishing down the field at Leopardstown over Christmas.
The champion trainer indicated that Klassical Dream could potentially go straight to Cheltenham following his impressive victory over Flooring Porter at Leopardstown last month.
Also featured in the 13 entries for the €36,500 prize were Any Second Now, Ashdale Bob, Commander Of Fleet, Court Maid, Darasso, Early Doors, Gentlemansgame, Home By The Lee and Royal Kahala.