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."
31 October 2014Day to remember for Ellison
Johnson remains under observation
Conti chasing second Charlie Hall
Terror scares Newmarket rivals
Filleule faces Champion test
Terror scares off Newmarket rivals
Sgt far from Reckless at Uttoxeter
Little King wears Down Royal crown
Nicholls goes on Charm offensive
Fishers angling for Wetherby prize
Lavelle star Bec in business
Weld out to break new ground
Osborne ready to 'roll the dice'
Dank bids to sign off on a high
Turf glory in sight for Telescope
Red Ed upbeat about Cadeaux
Aktabantay out of Breeders' Cup
Tearless secures Good Friday ticket
Overnight stay for Johnson
Crawford banks on Izzini progress
Toast could make Spencer think
Road charts route to Royal riches
Grece excels at Saint-Cloud
Hawk given Greatwood option
Hannon: Early speed key for Osaila
30 October 2014Tearless takes Lingfield honours
Johnson taken to hospital
Royal summons for Apache
Bowe takes aim at WKD bullseye
Hootenanny 'smoking' for BC mission
Avenue roads lead to Newmarket
Shu to be kept busy
Scu sweet on Sensation Ascot raid
Murtagh succumbs to Cup charms
Dandino to stay in Australia
Glance denied Mackinnon defence
Bailey ace rules Supreme at Taunton
O'Brien hit by Magician blow
Diablo in big-race picture
Buckley raises Toast to Osborne
Pastille seeking four-timer
Conti all set for Charlie Hall
Barnes out to storm Saint-Cloud
Williams issues Buywise warning
Lynam reveals Slade stalls fears
29 October 2014Lame Magician out of Breeders' Cup
Diablo in big-race picture
Mullins enters strong Hennessy team
Damaged hock behind Estid reverse
Eckhart team rocked by injury blow
Hunt Ball makes Power play
Morgiana a T bone of contention
Kirby ponders Buttons French raid
Glance camp turn to Williams
Wohler trusts 'professional' Moore
Red alert to Cup challenge
Head targets more Mile glory
Mile hope Toronado in 'great form'
Telescope camp banking on Moore
Twiston-Davies link excites Moore
Flying third to Bob on hurdling bow
Harden to test top staying waters
Godolphin take share in Belardo
Mullins has big guns at Down Royal
Annacotty set for Kempton return
Powell and Bradley cleared
28 October 2014Fingal camp on weather watch
More injury woe for Popham
Dickin unveils Thomas gameplan
Power stalls in Flemington spin
Toast drawn nine in BC Classic
My Ambivalent passed fit by vets
Harry out to bring House down
Three and easy for ton-up Hanagan
Wood carves out Galway verdict
More Of That in Wetherby frame
Big guns confirmed for Charlie Hall
Byron pencilled in for Far East
Newbury reverts to original title
Magician to stay in the US