Hurricane Fly will face just four rivals as he aims to regain his crown in the Istabraq Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday.
The 2011 Champion Hurdle hero missed the first half of last season with injury, but following a scintillating comeback in the Irish Champion Hurdle, he was odds-on to strike gold again at Cheltenham in March.
However, he was beaten into third in a lacklustre display and although he did sign off with victory at Punchestown, he headed into the new campaign with questions to answer. Willie Mullins' stable star travelled with far more zest when making a winning return in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last month and will be odds-on to follow up this weekend.
The champion trainer also saddles the consistent Thousand Stars, while the main threat from outside the yard is the Dermot Weld-trained mare Unaccompanied, winner of this Grade One prize 12 months ago.
Eddie Harty's veteran Captain Cee Bee and rank outsider Tilabay complete the line-up.
Mullins is pleased with Hurricane Fly's condition going into his latest assignment as he aims to make it five wins from five starts at Leopardstown.
"He's in good form, I'm very pleased with him at home at the moment," said Mullins.
"Leopardstown is a track we know he likes, he's won there on all sorts of ground, so we'll see what happens. We'll get it out of the way before we make plans for the rest of the season."
Thousand Stars failed to fire on his seasonal reappearance at Tipperary in October but the champion trainer believes his grey is in better form now.
He added: "I just hadn't been that happy with him going into the Tipperary race, but I think he is starting to come back to himself. He has run well at Leopardstown before and the ground should be all right for him. I decided to stick to two miles with him rather than run him in the three-mile race (Christmas Hurdle)."
1 April 2015Moore breaks leg in Towcester spill
Envoy and Moore beaten at Dundalk
Ferguson fine after Wincanton spill
O'Neill opens Door to Aintree glory
Morris passes century mark
O'Neill readies Aintree squad
Huge entry for Scottish National
Cookie camp up for the Cup
Warrior heads Irish National field
Hills trio in Dante contention
Chrome headlines Lockinge entry
McNamara to Lord it at Aintree
O'Neill: McCoy fairytale no given
Ramone could rock up at Curragh
Coronation up Flintshire's street
Kil lacked zip in France - Longsdon
No Classic prep for Celebrity
Culloty duo on course for Aintree
Royale seal of approval for McCoy
Consort possible for Craven
Fry lines up double Fairyhouse raid
Gatsby seeking Tattersalls gold
Merry King to miss Grand National
Moore has Dundalk ride for O'Brien
Vautour still in Fairyhouse picture
Panther plans open before Gold run
Appleby outlines Charming gameplan
31 March 2015Mac magic earns Southwell shock
Reserves added to Irish National
Punchestown an option for Bolster
Euro could be saved for Ascot
Tullius to go the distance
Bass angling for Rainbow gold
Dreaper an Amigos ally
Maguire ruled out of National
Sirius camp ponder rise in trip
Solar powered up for Classic charge
Guest treads cautiously with Chrome
30 March 2015Noseda sorry for Sloane reaction
Botti aims high with Naadirr
Flemenstar pleases on comeback
Nicholls trims National team
Bolger rates Lucida highly
Angel in the Hunt for Cup honours
Mullins weighs up Aintree options
Hannon readies Classic team
McCoy rules out Punchestown
O'Brien big guns enjoy away day
Hannon aims high with Windshear
McCoy thrills on Ascot farewell
Huge shock in Park Express
Moore to step up Ballydoyle rides
Jacob ripe for Pineau ride
Varian suffers Kingston 'blow'
Aintree on God's radar
29 March 2015Hero makes his mark for O'Meara
Kristale limbers up for York return
Ferof in hunt for Aintree riches
Telescope back in focus
Clouds given National clearance
Chrome given Royal summons
Flemenstar unplaced on return
Dolniya excels in Sheema Classic
Solow gallops to Turf glory
Gabrial just divine in Lincoln
Naadirr strikes to take Trophy
Sole switches on late power
Tullius has to pull out the stops
Romsdal up and running
Panther pounces for Gold