Paisley Park and Faugheen are among 28 six-day acceptors for the £325,000 G1 Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle (3.30pm), one of two championship races at Cheltenham on day three of The Festival™ presented by Magners, St Patrick's Thursday, March 14.
Paisley Park, trained by Emma Lavelle in Wiltshire, is the strong favourite for the three-mile (2m 7f 213y) hurdling feature, having carried all before him in four starts so far this season.
His winning streak includes the G1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December, the seven-year-old's breakthrough success at the highest level, and a 12-length romp under a penalty in the G2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day, January 26.
Popular 11-year-old Faugheen, winner of the 2015 G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle, is aiming to become the joint oldest winner of the Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle and would share the accolade with Crimson Embers, also an 11-year-old, who triumphed in 1986. If successful, Faugheen would be the first horse to win both the Unibet Champion Hurdle and the Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle.
Faugheen's trainer Willie Mullins, who has landed the two most recent editions of the Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle with Nichols Canyon and Penhill, also has Bacardys and Bapaume among a seven-strong team.
The Irish challenge is also set to include last year's runner-up Supasundae (Jessica Harrington), who has the option of this race or the Unibet Champion Hurdle on the opening day of The Festival, Champion Day, Tuesday, March 12.
Supasundae has not raced over three miles so far this season and on his latest start finished second behind Apple's Jade in the two-mile G1 Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on February 2.
Trainer Jessica Harrington reported: "Supasundae is in good form and at the moment I am leaning towards running him in the Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle.
"He has been such a consistent horse for us and when you look at his record, he only ever runs in G1s. He has won at the highest level and has also been placed on multiple occasions in G1 races, so he has been a privilege to train.
"At the beginning of the year, I thought he would be a Champion Hurdle horse as I thought last year's renewal was quite weak, but Apple's Jade and Laurina look very talented this year, so it has helped make us lean towards the Stayers' Hurdle."
Aside from Paisley Park, the leading British-trained contenders include last year's G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle victor Kilbricken Storm (Colin Tizzard) and Black Op (Tom George), who shaped well on his return to hurdling when third behind Paisley Park on Festival Trials Day. The maximum number of runners is 24.
The other championship contest on St Patrick's Thursday is the £350,000 G1 Ryanair Chase (2.50pm) over just shy of two miles and five furlongs (2m 4f 184y), for which there are 18 horses going forward.
Willie Mullins has a formidable trio engaged, made up of last year's G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase victor Footpad, Min, who has captured two G1 contests already this season, and nine-time G1 scorer Un De Sceaux, the winner of this race in 2017.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud has three remaining entries - last year's winner Balko Des Flos (Henry De Bromhead IRE) and the Noel Meade-trained pair of Road To Respect and Tout Est Permis. Balko Des Flos' stablemate Monalee is also engaged.
British hopes rest mainly with course specialist Frodon, trained by Paul Nicholls and the mount of Bryony Frost, though the chaser also has the option of the G1 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup the following day.
1.30pm £157,315 G1 JLT Novices' Chase, 2m 4f 5y
Familiar rivals Defi Du Seuil (Philip Hobbs) and Lostintranslation (Colin Tizzard) headline 19 contenders for the G1 JLT Novices' Chase.
They have gone head-to-head on two occasions already this season, with Lostintranslation emerging on top in the G2 Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham New Year's Day, before Defi Du Seuil reversed the form narrowly in the G1 888Sport Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown Park last month.
The highly-regarded Vinndication (Kim Bailey), who was third behind that pair at Sandown Park, and impressive Thurles scorer Real Steel (Willie Mullins) have also been left in.
2.10pm £100,000 G3 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle, 2m 7f 213y (MAX 24 runners)
Gordon Elliott captured the 2018 G3 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle with Delta Work and the Co Meath trainer looks to have another strong fancy this year in Sire Du Berlais (11st 7lb), a staying-on fourth in last season's Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle.
The 42 confirmations also include top-weight The Mighty Don (Nick Gifford, 11st 12lb), course scorer First Assignment (Ian Williams, 11st 4lb) and progressive nine-year-old Walk To Freedom (Jessica Harrington IRE, 11st 10lb).
Davy Russell has ridden the last three winners of the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle, partnering Mall Dini in 2016 and Presenting Percy in 2017 - both trained by Pat Kelly - as well as Delta Work.
4.10pm £110,000 G3 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, 2m 4f 184y (MAX 24 runners)
Top-weight and ante-post favourite Janika (11st 12lb) is one of 44 acceptors for the G3 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, as his trainer Nicky Henderson chases a record fifth victory in the handicap chase. Henderson is also responsible lightly-raced chaser River Wylde (11st 6lb).
Trainer Nick Williams looks to have a leading candidate in Siruh Du Lac (10st 11lb), who extended his winning streak to three when denying Janika by a head in the G3 Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Trophy Handicap Chase on Festival Trials Day.
4.50pm £90,000 National Hunt Breeders Supported By Tattersalls Mares' Novices' Hurdle, 2m 179y (MAX 22 runners)
Willie Mullins has landed all three runnings of the G2 National Hunt Breeders Supported By Tattersalls Mares' Novices' Hurdle, most notably with leading Unibet Champion Hurdle contender Laurina in 2018. The Co Carlow handler accounts for 12 of the 33 remaining contenders, including Leopardstown G1 runner-up Sancta Simona.
Henderson has a strong hand with hot favourite Epatante and Lust For Glory among his entries going forward. The prolific Posh Trish (Paul Nicholls) and Punchestown Listed scorer Sinoria (Henry de Bromhead) are others with claims.
5.30pm £70,000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase, 3m 2f 75y (MAX 24 runners)
Irish-trained trio Measureofmydreams (Gordon Elliott, 11st 4lb), Any Second Now (Ted Walsh, 11st 10lb), and Its All Guesswork (Gordon Elliott, 11st) headline 48 remaining entries for the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase.