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."
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