Disko and Outlander in the mix for King George tilt
Two Irish raiders, Disko and Outlander, are on course to take on the home team's big three of Might Bite, Bristol De Mai and Thistlecrack in next Tuesday's King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Both contenders from this side of the Irish Sea run in the colours of Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud.
Outlander, formerly trained by Willie Mullins but now in the care of Gordon Elliott, claimed his third Grade One success in last month's Champion Chase at Down Royal, but was a long way behind the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
The Noel Meade-trained Disko made a successful return in a Grade Two on the same Down Royal card and has not been seen in competitive action since.
Nicky Henderson's dual Grade One winner Might Bite is a hot favourite for the St Stephen's Day feature, while Bristol De Mai bids to follow up his remorseless front-running success in last month's Haydock showpiece.
Bristol De Mai's connections will scoop a £1m (€1.13m) bonus if he can add the King George and the Cheltenham Gold Cup to his victory on Merseyside.
Thistlecrack was a highly impressive winner of last year's King George for Colin Tizzard, but returns to defend his crown with questions to answer after finishing well-beaten on his return from injury in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
Tizzard has also confirmed Fox Norton looks set to tackle three miles for the first time after being narrowly denied over two miles in the Tingle Creek.
Henderson has a second string to his bow in the form of Whisper, beaten by his stablemate Might Bite at Cheltenham and Aintree last spring, but he has earned himself a rematch after going down fighting under a big weight in Newbury's Ladbrokes Trophy.
Elegant Escape, which justified Tizzard's faith when opening his account over fences at Newbury, could step up to Grade One company in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase on the same card.
The five-year-old got the better of multiple winner Black Corton when taking the Grade Two John Francome Novices' Chase earlier this month after finishing second on his two previous attempts over the bigger obstacles.
Black Corton, trained by Paul Nicholls, is among the 14 entries for the three-mile heat, as is Anthony Honeyball's Fountains Windfall, who fell three out in the Newbury contest when holding every chance. Tizzard also has West Approach.