With the final field yet to be declared at the time of writing, as many as fifteen names are still in the hat for the Tolworth Novices Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday.
First run in 1976, the Tolworth Hurdle is a Grade One novice hurdle contest over a distance of two miles. A key trial for the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham, last year's renewal provided the first two home of that very contest.
This year, Nicky Henderson looks to have a strong hand with a JP McManus-owned trio. At the forefront of those is current favourite Rathhill who travelled so impressively on route to victory in a maiden at Newbury last time out. There appears to be more to come from the 6yo gelding, who could shorten in the Supreme market with a victory here.
Birchdale also won on debut for the Champion Trainer at Warwick in a maiden. Like Rathhill, he too cruised to an unchallenged victory, but over an extra five furlongs in distance, indicating a place in the Ballymore could be on the horizon.
The final McManus runner is the mare Epatante, who had three races in France before moving to Britain. She showed a smart turn of foot at Kempton back in November, similar somewhat to a sprinter on the flat over five or six furlongs. All three named, have leading chances.
Splitting those in the betting, is Colin Tizzard's Elixir De Nutz, who has raced at Cheltenham on all three of his most recent starts, winning two and finishing second in the other. One of those victories was in a Grade Two Supreme Trial beating some useful looking novices, and with the Dorset trainer flying, is surely in with a leading chance.
As is Ben Pauling's Bright Forecast, as he proved his big odds win at Newbury was no fluke, but following up in style from the front at Leicester just after Christmas. Another with a smart turn of foot, this contest is already appearing to look like a sprint.
Paul Nicholls became the tenth most winning trainer of all time on New Years Day, and has Southfield Stone in the Tolworth field, ready to prove he can perform away from Taunton.
The 6yo grey racked up a hat-trick at the Somerset venue in December, but will need to handle the rise in class, as will Olly Murphy's Brewin'upastorm, who failed to really land a blow to Champ, when jumping up into top company in the Challow Novices Hurdle at Newbury between Christmas and New Years.
Elsewhere, Evan William saddles Esprit Du Large, whilst Nigel Twiston-Davies has Munir/Souede duo Muratello and Torpillo, who both do have other targets.