Tiger Roll will bid to reclaim his crown and become the first three-time winner of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday.
The 11-year-old claimed the prize in 2018 and 2019, but last season’s attempt at a third consecutive win was foiled by the French-trained Easysland.
Defeated by a conclusive 17 lengths, Tiger Roll has been beaten by similarly wide margins since and was pulled up when contesting the handicap chase run over the same cross-country course at Cheltenham’s November meeting.
Now campaigned by Denise Foster after the suspension of Gordon Elliott, the dual Grand National hero will cross paths with Easysland again at Cheltenham – where he is a four-time Festival winner – and is reported to be in fine fettle ahead of the contest.
“Keith (Donoghue, jockey) rang after schooling Tiger Roll this morning and tells me he’s in great form,” Foster said.
“He seemed in super form at home before he left.
“I watched him last week and he was very bullish in himself, which is hopefully a good sign.
“The truth is only Tiger really knows how he’s feeling, but he obviously likes Cheltenham and Keith seems very happy with him.”
On the same card is a notably competitive renewal of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, with Willie Mullins seemingly well positioned to take an 11th victory in the Grade One race.
Kilcruit heads the market after a commanding victory at Leopardstown last month, where he was completely unchallenged as he cruised to an easy 12-length success.
“Kilcruit put up a huge performance at the Dublin Racing Festival and I was very pleased,” Mullins said of the run.
“I was gobsmacked actually at how well he won on the day, and I’m hoping he can put a similar kind of performance in at Cheltenham.”
Mullins will also saddle the undefeated Sir Gerhard, who joined his yard earlier in the month from Elliott.
“Sir Gerhard is a fine horse,” he said of the Cheveley Park-owned gelding.
“His form looks very good and he looks like he could be anything, as he’s got all the qualities of a good horse.
“It’s going to be very tough changing stables so soon before the race, but we’ll see what we can do.”
Paul Nicholls will be hoping for a first success in the contest as he sends out Shearer, a five-year-old son of Flemensfirth.
The gelding was last seen triumphing by nine lengths in a bumper at Warwick, before which he was beaten by just a head on his racecourse debut.
“Shearer is a very nice horse,” Nicholls said.
“He was named after Alan Shearer and I know Alan has followed him.
“He just got beaten on his debut at Hereford and then won well at Warwick on ground that was far too testing for him.
“He’s had a nice break and has improved, he definitely deserves to take his chance.”