Brewin’Upastorm will take on six rivals in the Grade Two Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
Olly Murphy’s representative impressed on his seasonal reappearance at Aintree and the trainer is keen to see if he can replicate that form on his return to a track where he unseated Richard Johnson in the 2020 Arkle Chase.
Murphy said: “He is in good form and this has been the plan for a long time, so trip, ground, track should all be A1 and I’m really looking forward to running him.
“If he turns up in the same form as he did at Aintree, hopefully he will be bang there.
“He is the form horse coming into the race and Guard Your Dreams is going up in trip, so I’m really looking forward to running him and it will be really interesting to see if he can back his Aintree run up.
“He should definitely like the ground as he has won on heavy ground before.”
Heading the opposition is McFabulous, who locks horns again after being beaten five and a half lengths by Murphy’s horse in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell in February.
McFabulous is making a belated seasonal bow and trainer Paul Nicholls is hopeful he can turn the tables with a pull at the weights.
He said: “Brewin’Upastorm beat him at Fontwell in the spring, but we are 6lb better off for being beaten just over five lengths that day.
“He had a little setback earlier in the season and that is why he is later coming out.
“We got a feeling all last season he was struggling with his breathing, but he has had a breathing operation and that should help him a little bit.
“Two and a half miles first time out should suit him well. He has had an away day and done everything nicely and he has jumped well.
“He has never been a flashy work horse, but he has done loads of work and he is fit. He is always good fresh and we are hopeful of a good run.”
In contrast, Guard Your Dreams will lack nothing for fitness, having had three runs this season, latterly landing the Grade Two International Hurdle over two miles and one furlong.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies feels that going back up in trip “will hold no fears”, having started his campaign with victory over two and a half miles on the Old Course at Cheltenham.
“He won there last time and enjoys the track,” said Twiston-Davies. “Hopefully he’ll win.
“It’s obviously a lot trickier race, but we will do our best.”
Willie Mullins fields an intriguing contender in Stormy Ireland, who was beaten 36 lengths by Honeysuckle in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on her seasonal debut.
On The Blind Side, runner-up to Thomas Darby in the Long Distance Hurdle before finishing sixth to stablemate Champ in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, represents Nicky Henderson.
The Evan Williams-trained Dans Le Vent completes the field, with his trainer keen to see if he can back up his victory over an extended three miles in a Haydock Grade Three.
“He’s got a small penalty, I don’t want him to carry a big weight in a handicap so we’ll chance our arm in that,” said Williams.
“He produced a great performance at Haydock. We’re stepping back in trip, but it’s a stiff track and up in class. He’s obviously wrong at the weights in so many ways and Isabel (Williams, daughter) can’t claim. But we’re going to enjoy the day.
“It’ll be a smashing bit of fun. We’re going to enjoy him in a few of those races and see if we can pick up a bit of prize-money.
“It will be great experience for Isabel. Mr Gambarini (owner) is insistent she keeps the ride so we’re going to enjoy the experience.”
Paul Webber’s Indefatigable was declared a non-runner on Friday on account of the soft ground.
The Grade Three Paddy Power New Year’s Day Handicap Chase sees 16 runners going to post with the Williams-trained Coole Cody bidding to replicate his win in the Racing Post Gold Cup over course and distance.
Williams added: “He did a bit of work on Wednesday morning. Everything is good. It was tremendous the last day. The horse has done nothing wrong and I can’t believe we’re going back there for another handicap on the same track.
“Obviously, it will be incredibly difficult but he loves it there.”
The Dan Skelton-trained Alnadam is among his chief rivals. He signed off with a fair seventh to Vintage Clouds in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Festival meeting in March and made a belated seasonal debut when last of four to Bravemansgame at Haydock.
Skelton said: “Alnadam will love the ground and he is in good form. We have been keeping him for one of these races – we just had to find the softest ground.”