Brave Inca and Sublimity headline 10 runners for the Toshiba Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Hardy Eustace, yet another former winner of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, also takes his chance in the Grade One event which should have a significant impact on the ante-post market for the showpiece meeting in March.
In addition to Brave Inca, Colm Murphy also saddles outsiders Allez Petit Luis and Swiftmarc, while Noel Meade relies upon former smart novice Muirhead.
Silent Oscar has his first run since defeating Mac’s Joy at Punchestown in April 2007.
River Liane, Beau Michael and Larkwing complete the field.
Brave Inca has been all the rage this week and was backed into favouritism in the ante-post markets.
Having returned from injury at Fairyhouse in November, the 11-year-old overcame a slow pace to take third behind Sublimity in the Christmas Hurdle and is raring to go according to connections.
Murphy said: “All has gone well with him since his run at Christmas so I am very happy with him.
“With the way the ground has gone I guess people have looked and thought he will go on it and backed him because of that. He is one of those who will act on the ground and has been the same as ever at home.
“It will be a tough race in the conditions. It will be very testing on Sunday but he should relish it.
“The ground will make up for a lot on Sunday and if it comes a real test then it will play to his strengths.”
Brave Inca has twice finished runner-up in the race in addition to winning in 2006 – the same year he responded to strong driving and claimed the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
That race could yet feature on his radar, and Murphy said: “I haven’t looked beyond this weekend.
“He is entered in the Champion Hurdle and the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and Sunday will dictate which way he goes.”
On Allez Petit Luis and Swiftmarc, he added: “I entered the other two thinking the race may cut up with the ground the way it is, and I hoped they could pick up some prize money.
“I was surprised how many runners there are, but we’re very lucky as they both like to be up with the pace and ridden confidently.”
The current heavy ground would be far from ideal for 2007 Champion Hurdle winner Sublimity, but rookie trainer Robbie Hennessy and jockey Philip Carberry believe his radiant well-being will see him through.
Hennessy said: “I just had a phone call from someone at Leopardstown who tells me there is a lovely breeze there and that the sun is shining.
“That is great news and although they are giving the ground as heavy there could be a chance it will dry to soft by Sunday.
“He has won on really testing ground twice before on the Flat. Once at the Curragh in the Alleged Stakes and then in bottomless ground at Navan, but I suppose they weren’t Grade One races.
“Philip was down to ride work on him on Tuesday, and I said to him the last thing I wanted was for him to have a tussle with Brave Inca from four furlongs out and be off the bridle.
“Paul said that he felt so good in his work that he wouldn’t be off the bridle four furlongs out, and that made up our minds to run.”
Sublimity notched up a second Grade One victory at Leopardstown over Christmas, and provided Hennessy with a first-ever career success when seeing off Won In The Dark.
That run also promoted him to 10-1 second-favouritism for Cheltenham in March.
Hennessy added: “”He is in really good form and only came off the bridle after jumping the last at Christmas.
“He didn’t really do much and often does more on the gallops.
“We have six and a half weeks between Sunday and Cheltenham. We’ll freshen him up and give him a few days off and hope to be back on the track in March.”