Defending champion Energumene heads nine confirmations for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday.
Willie Mullins’ nine-year-old claimed the first prize with a bloodless victory on a wet second day of the Festival 12 months ago and followed that up with further easy triumphs at both the Punchestown Festival and on his reappearance at Cork in December.
However, although still disputing favouritism for the second-day feature, he returns to Prestbury Park with a point to prove having finished third when appearing at the track in the rearranged Clarence House Chase on Festival Trials Day.
It was Gary Moore’s Editeur Du Gite and last year’s Arkle hero Edwardstone that fought out a thrilling finish on that occasion, with the former making nearly all to give Niall Houlihan a first Grade One success as a jockey.
Both feature amongst the confirmations, with Alan King’s charge the general 7-4 joint-favourite with the bookmakers to turn the tables.
As well as Energumene, Mullins could be represented by Blue Lord and Gentleman De Mee who have both picked up Grade Ones over two miles this term.
Blue Lord struck at Leopardstown in the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase over Christmas to throw himself into the Champion Chase picture, but was no match for his stablemate at the Dublin Racing Festival when Danny Mullins bounced out Gentleman De Mee and sauntered to a seven-length victory.
That was the second time he had scored at Grade One level having also claimed the scalp of Edwardstone in the Maghull Novices’ Chase last April.
Funambule Sivola chased home Energumene for the silver medal 12 months ago and returned to form by winning the Game Spirit last month, while Nube Negra (Dan Skelton) and Greaneteen (Paul Nicholls) finished second and fourth respectively in the race behind Put The Kettle On in 2021 and will return for another crack at the race having missed out in 2022.
The list is completed by Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness with stablemate Coeur Sublime and Mullins’ Chacun Pour Soi the only two not confirmed from the 11 left standing at the previous scratching stage.