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)."
30 October 2014Tearless secures Good Friday ticket
Overnight stay for Johnson
Crawford banks on Izzini progress
Toast could make Spencer think
Tearless takes Lingfield honours
Road charts route to Royal riches
Johnson taken to hospital
Grece excels at Saint-Cloud
Hawk given Greatwood option
Royal summons for Apache
Hannon: Early speed key for Osaila
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
Henderson considers hurdles for Bob
27 October 2014Mountainous back on National trail
Ground to dictate Gold run
Elite aim for Rendezvous
Classic dreams at Leopardstown
Smullen celebrates seventh title
Cheltenham target for Module
Pete shows his Aintree mettle
Royal-Oak double for Boistron
Starchitect in surprise strike
New One given Haydock mission
Balding excited by Park prospects
Sights set high for Crafty