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."
2 March 2015McCoy shines on Sivola
Weekend plan for Lincoln hope Boy
Arzal seeking change of luck
Bentelimar booked for Supreme rule
Watering possible at Cheltenham
Wincanton Thursday abandoned
Aintree beckons for Milan
Dundalk unlikely for Byron
Cops on patrol for Pertemps
Sizing team to make late call
Stars on show at Cheltenham
Codd angling for Festival glory
Duke set Carlisle agenda
Prospects bleak at Wincanton
Moon camp wary of Irish threat
Hobbs unveils Cheltenham hopes
Magic McCoy on target with Fredo
Azorian back in winning groove
Berlais lands Auteuil prize
Fred Winter favoured for Berbas
High hopes for Meade Festival team
Cooper seeks Cheltenham riches
Lemaire in hot water in Japan
Reckless camp consider Arkle bid
1 March 2015Cecil runner second at Huntingdon
High hopes for Meade Festival team
Super set for National Duty
Longsdon retains Joe faith
Nolan hoping Noble makes cut
Camping in line for Cup bid
Bin Suroor tribute for Cavalryman
Vautour excites Mullins in workout
Elliott posse work at Leopardstown
Geraghty confirmed for Master
Wayward back on right track
Investment gains Greatwood gold
Bal win delights connections
Glinger burns off Kelso rivals
Pipe proves he's a Soll man
Geraghty shines on Leave It
28 February 2015Festival plans fluid for Cyclone
Walter back for another victory
Irish pair do battle in France
Geraghty: Sprinter will be fitter
Wylie lines up Cheltenham team
Twiston-Davies Blak in business
Divine Bishop on Festival trail
Irish duo set Doncaster poser
Night riding high for Grimthorpe
Glingerburn facing another battle
Pipe targets Aintree with veterans
Carlito primed for Kelso return
McCoy not planning Festival goodbye
Bridge camp praying for rain
Cook suspended from riding
27 February 2015Golantilla in Ballsbridge bid
Safety strikes in Zabeel Mile
Fehily confirms Zarkandar mount
Lieutenant bosses Purcell rivals
Dettori delights on Dubday
Many Clouds goes back to school
Maguire loses appeal
New One at ease for Faugheen clash
Foxrock still in Gold Cup picture
Apache ready to take flight in JLT