Rule The World has filled the runner-up spot on seven of his 11 starts over fences, but has remarkably yet to taste victory.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned nine-year-old was last seen chasing home top-class novice No More Heroes in the Neville Hotels Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and Morris has booked leading conditional Jack Kennedy for his return to handicap company.
Folsom Blue was third in Leopardstown’s Paddy Power Chase over the Festive period and is the choice of Gigginstown’s retained rider Bryan Cooper.
Morris said: “Rule The World is a class horse and ran a cracker in Leopardstown. We have the man in form on his back, so hopefully he’ll run well.
“The other horse only has 10st 1lb on his back and ran a good race in Leopardstown as well. It looks a very open race and hopefully they both have each-way chances.”
The Morris duo are just two of five runners for Gigginstown, with Sandra Hughes’ Irish Grand National winner Thunder And Roses and Gordon Elliott’s pair of Unic De Bersy and and Nickname Exit also in contention for the three-mile-one-furlong feature.
Elliott also runs Ucello Conti and Mala Beach, while his Troytown Chase winner Riverside City is second reserve.
Elliott said: “Ucello Conti was second in the Paddy Power. I think he is a very good horse but he’s not an easy horse to train, so to be honest, I think he would have come on from the Paddy Power again and I think I should have him spot-on for Gowran
“Riverside City won very well in Navan and ran well at Leopardstown where he made a mistake at the second. He is in very good form.
“We’ve declared five horses. The prize-money is that good you have to take your chance.”
Champion trainer Willie Mullins has won the race on six occasions and gave Ruby Walsh his first victory when subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam was successful last year.
The master of Closutton fires four bullets this time around, with Walsh preferring Ballycasey to top-weight Boston Bob, the long-absent Suntiep and Urano.
“He (Ballycasey) has been working well, has a good record fresh and while he’s never won over the trip, I think he should stay, but it is always a stamina-sapping contest,” Walsh told Racing UK.
“It’s run on very heavy ground, they go a really good gallop and you have to stay to win, so hopefully Ballycasey can.”
Other contenders include Michael Hourigan’s The Job Is Right and the Henry de Bromhead-trained Buckers Bridge.
Joining Riverside City on the reserve list are Noel Meade’s Bonny Kate (first reserve) and Aurora Bell (third reserve) from John Burke’s yard.
- Last year’s winner Faugheen is the star turn among 19 entries for the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. The eight-year-old saw off stable companions Arctic Fire and Hurricane Fly to lead home a one-two-three for Willie Mullins in last year’s renewal and Ireland’s champion trainer again has a strong hand.
Faugheen suffered a shock defeat at the hands of stablemate Nichols Canyon on his seasonal reappearance in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, but bounced back to form to successfully defend his crown in Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day.
Nichols Canyon has also won since, landing the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown, and the pair, along with Arctic Fire, are set to do battle in this weekend’s Irish Champion Hurdle before heading to Prestbury Park in March.
Mullins also has a fourth entry for the Champion Hurdle in Sempre Medici, while Henry de Bromhead’s Identity Thief completes the potential Irish challenge.
Nicky Henderson has five possible runners, with last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Peace And Co, 2014 Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours, Sign Of A Victory, Top Notch and Hargam on the list.
Paul Nicholls has a couple of outsiders in Old Guard and All Yours, while The New One is set for a third Champion Hurdle, having finished third and fifth in the last two renewals for Nigel Twiston-Davies.
War Sound, Camping Ground, Parlour Games, Purple Bay, Mad Jack Mytton and Aristo Du Plessis complete the entries.
Aristo Du Plessis, who has won his last six completed starts, is the sole Scottish-trained contender.
James Ewart’s charge is set to bid for a Musselburgh hat-trick in the Scottish County Hurdle on February 7 and another victory could earn him a shot at Champion Hurdle glory on March 15.
Ewart said: “Aristo Du Plessis is the flagship horse for us and we will consider our options after Musselburgh.
“We could go to Cheltenham but he is still a young horse and his main aim this season is the Scottish Champion Hurdle (Ayr, April 16).
“But if he runs very well at Musselburgh and everybody is in agreement, the Champion Hurdle will be seriously considered.”