Tidal Bay heads the weights after 22 horses were confirmed for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday.
The enigmatic 11-year-old ended last season with victory in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown and made a winning return back over smaller obstacles in the John Smith's Hurdle at Wetherby.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls could also saddle Harry The Viking, who is at the other end of the weights on 10st 2lb, but stable companion Michel Le Bon is a notable defection.
The ante-post favourite for the race is Nicky Henderson's Bobs Worth (11st 6lb), last seen winning the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Henderson may also saddle Roberto Goldback, who made a winning start for new connections at Ascot.
Other leading contenders include The Package, Hold On Julio, Frisco Depot and Saint Are. Last year's Hennessy hero Carruthers is also in contention - as is the 2010 winner Diamond Harry.
There is also a strong representation from Ireland, headed by the Mouse Morris-trained First Lieutenant.
Irish National winner Lion Na Bearnai and Magnanimity from Dessie Hughes' yard may also make the journey.
Frisco Depot's trainer Charlie Longsdon is hopeful of a bold run. The eight-year-old showed smart form for Hughes in Ireland and was in the process of running a big race at Ascot on his debut for Longsdon when falling three fences from home. Sam Waley-Cohen, son of part-owner Robert, will keep the ride this weekend.
Longsdon said: "It was the lightest Sam had ever ridden when he rode him last time. He will probably do 2lb over weight on the day and I think we will put a stronger bit in his mouth because he was a bit keen last time.
"I don't think the ground will be a problem as all his runs in Ireland were on heavy ground."
22 October 2014High hopes for Adelaide run
Burke maps out Odeliz targets
Present sights set on Power prize
Gilgamboa waits on ground
New category for all-weather champs
Moviesta has sales date
National aim for O'Neill star
Cheltenham on Ginge agenda
Lewis eyeing Dubai success
Henderson handed Ascot role
Dandino misses Cup date
Panther given Breeders' go-ahead
Plain sailing for perfect Storm
Big Easy sets sail for Open fixture
Hall monitored for Giant Bolster
Stomachion in November frame
Hughes revels in 'sweet' success
BHA moves to address small fields
Connell turns to Heskin
Integral to race on next year
21 October 2014Storm breezes to Exeter victory
Moore concedes title to Hughes
Meade maps out gameplan for stars
Pele poised to tackle Hennessy
O'Neill sure of Taquin redemption
Heron seeking Great prize
Court to go on Trial
Saviour blow for Skelton
Dan makes chase debut
Moore waits on Grugy decision
O'Neill outlines That choices
Conn possible for Auction bid
Power team weigh up options
Bangor cancel schooling card
No rushing back for Long Run
Dynaste leads Old Roan contenders
Grands Crus retired
Exciting Berlais heads to Chepstow
Force handed Hong Kong mission
Park favourite for Trophy hunt
Al Kazeem team eye Hong Kong trip
Commemorative bound for Breeders'
Slade eyeing victorious swansong
20 October 2014Chelmsford City handed 58 fixtures
Alderwood to take two-mile test
Dynaste leads Old Roan contenders
Hennessy aim for Clouds
Fiesolana on Breeders' trail
High-class possibilities for Trophy
Chelmsford City handed 57 fixtures
French option for Maarek
Billy back for chasing bow
Judge to bid for Breeders' glory
Pipe mulls Moon target
High hopes for Holywell
Judge in Breeders' frame
Hill stars for Stoute and Moore
Gabriel lifts Garnet for Deegan
New One back with a win
Light career hangs in balance
Stars shines on hurdling debut
King big guns ready to start
Tullius camp consider options
Doyle unlikely to appeal Ascot ban
Mullins prepares formidable team
19 October 2014New One breezes to victory
Lavelle has Becher plan for Lodge
Riches heading on road north
Down Royal plan for Tiger
New makes Kempton return
Panther hunting Canadian prize
Sun takes a shine to Cork
Hobbs upholds Showcase record
Another gold strike for Bronze
Gallant Noble a true Champion
Head turns on Charm in QEII
Madame is Ascot leading lady
Forgotten rules for Weld
Byron is poetry in motion