Intersky Falcon will face seven rivals when he bids for his third victory in the Stan James Christmas Hurdle at Sandown Park on Boxing Day.
Jonjo O’Neill’s smart performer took the Grade One contest in 2002 and again the following year when it was run at Kempton.
However, he has been plagued by breathing problems and has not won since the 2003 renewal.
But at Cheltenham earlier this month he ran his best race for some time to finish under two lengths second to Champion Hurdle favourite Harchibald.
The latter bypasses Sandown in favour of a tilt at the bewleyshotels.com December Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown on Thursday.
“Harchibald was across in England two weeks ago and it’s a lot to ask him to go over and back again. The travelling takes as much out of him as the race and I just felt it was a bit soon to be going off on a trip like that again,” explained his Irish trainer Noel Meade.
“He’ll go to Leopardstown all going well.”
The decision to keep Harchibald at home delighted Intersky Falcon’s connections.
Terry McDermott, for the gelding’s owners interskyracing.com, said: “Harchibald not running gives us a bit more of a chance.
“The horse is in great nick. We are looking forward to it and Jonjo couldn’t be more pleased with him.
“We shouldn’t have run him in the Fighting Fifth where he was disappointing. We should have pulled him out because the ground changed – it was a bog.
“He’d had an operation and ran well at Wincanton but he didn’t like the ground at Newcastle and the jockey did the right thing in pulling him up.
“He came back and ran a massive race at Cheltenham and hopefully the ground is going to be good at Sandown, which should suit him.
“On good ground he’s a bloody good horse and I think he’ll have a very good chance on Monday.”