Last year's Champion Hurdle hero Rock On Ruby heads a small but select field of just four runners in the 32Red Hurdle at Doncaster.
Impressive Christmas Hurdle winner Darlan and Countrywide Flame, winner of the Triumph and Fighting Fifth Hurdles, add plenty of spice to a Listed contest run on a card added by the British Horseracing Authority last week following the spate of recent abandonments.
Completing the quartet is Clerk's Choice, who is no slouch and was sixth to Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival.
Harry Fry is delighted to get a second run of the campaign into Rock On Ruby before he defends his crown next month.
"At the beginning of the week we were thinking Wincanton or not running at all but we definitely wanted a run, if we could, between now and March," the Dorset trainer told www.stanjames.com.
"The ground is drying there all the time so it's a great opportunity, timing-wise, to get a run in before March. It'll take him to the next level and put the extra edge on him that he needs to be in with a chance of retaining his crown.
"You'd have to say a trial race isn't really going to be run to our strengths, whereas a strong out-and-out gallop like in the Champion Hurdle will be.
"You can get a bit of a dawdle to begin with and it can turn into a sprint. Obviously we'll be trying make sure that doesn't happen, but we could end up doing all the donkey work, which we know isn't our forte.
"With the speed Darlan showed in the Christmas Hurdle, you'd have to say the ball's in his court. Countrywide Flame's no mug either, especially on what he did at Newcastle in the soft. It's certainly going to be an informative race and we're looking forward to running.
"Schooling went well on Thursday with Noel (Fehily). He came down and sat on him and was very happy, so we're full of confidence."
27 November 2014Mor the merrier for in-form King
The New One going International
Sedgefield jockeys decline appeal
Henderson cool on Simonsig return
Coney seeks Newbury compensation
Pendra aiming to book Irish ticket
Jolly good result for Fry
Sacre 'not quite ready' for Sandown
Karezak takes Newbury test
Irving tops Fighting field
Djakadam leads Hennessy hopefuls
Meade eyeing Monks return
Uttoxeter being monitored
George goal for Ferof
Fehily answers Unioniste call
Irving fighting fit for Newcastle
Fit-again McCoy rules out landmark
Bobs confirmed for Lexus repeat
King expects Mor from Carraig
Cheltenham foes back on Gold trail
BHA announces prize-money fillip
Grant handed six-month ban
Banned Fenton 'less than truthful'
26 November 2014McCoy makes winning return
National aim for Wyck
Hand up for Becher challenge
Meade admits Riches ground question
McCoy leaning towards Merry mount
Christmas aim for Owega
Walsh expecting bold Sceaux show
Smith sadness at Mania retirement
Cadeaux among Hong Kong hopefuls
Staying aims for Trev
Retirement for National hero Mania
Fenton lodges ban appeal
Knott found in breach of rules
No stopping Twiston-Davies
Bans for jockeys in flag drama
Djak experience a concern for Walsh
More headlines Long Distance field
Tributes flow for Lady Herries
McCoy returns at Fontwell
25 November 2014Void race drama at Sedgefield
Colombieres stars in Mullins entry
Bridgwater buoyed by Bolster
Trade ready to storm Hong Kong
Bowe ponders Robin Power play
Apache on the march for Drinmore
Pipe - Stamina key to Bally chance
Sacre not guaranteed for Sandown
Tower 'sore' after Navan spill
Spirit ensures more Henderson woe
Walsh praise for Vautour
Walsh cool on Faugheen odds
Victory team on weather watch
New relief for Twiston-Davies
Nicholls planning dual George raid
Leather in fine form ahead of Cup
24 November 2014Hobbs upbeat about Fingal raid
Fry keen for crack at Tolworth
Midnight to stay over hurdles
Creek seeking Hennessy Gold
Dynaste team consider George run
Topper target hinges on ground
Followme poised for Drinmore date
Balbriggan lands Troytown gamble
Vautour impresses on chasing debut
Un De Sceaux set for Thurles
Melodic team face tough choice
Henderson aims at Listed prize
Croco in frame for Topham
Deputy in Kempton firing line
McBratney banks on Boy progress