Ferof heads Ryanair dozen
Al Ferof, Benefficient and Dynaste are among the runners for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham on Thursday though First Lieutenant is absent.
First Lieutenant was runner-up behind Cue Card in the two-mile-five-furlong Grade One 12 months ago, but the Mouse Morris-trained nine-year-old appears bound for a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup at this year's Festival.
Benefficient and Dynaste were first and second respectively in last year's Jewson Novices' Chase, which is now sponsored by JLT, and will lock horns again.
Tony Martin's Benefficient arrives on the back of a Grade One victory at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival, but the David Pipe-trained Dynaste must overcome a disappointing display in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Al Ferof has good form at Prestbury Park as a former winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup, but was a well-beaten third in the King George and finished a long way behind Harry Topper in the Denman Chase at Newbury last month.
Ireland is well represented with Benefficient joined by Boston Bob, Hidden Cyclone and the Morris-trained Rathlin.
The latter is Gigginstown House Stud's representative, in First Lieutenant's absence, and racing manager Eddie O'Leary gives the nine-year-old an outside chance.
He said: "Rathlin is well and beat Hidden Cyclone on better ground in Galway last summer.
"Hidden Cyclone is one of the leading hopes for the Ryanair, and our fellow is one of the rags, so we'll see what happens.
"We think he's got a sporting chance."
Hunt Ball, Kauto Stone, Medermit, Menorah and Rajdhani Express are others to feature, with Cantlow having been declared to run on Tuesday.