The New One (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 7/4 Fav with Unibet) is among seven entries for the £130,000 G2 Unibet International Hurdle (3.05pm), staged on day two of The International at Cheltenham, Saturday, December 16.
The nine-year-old is chasing a record-breaking fourth victory in the two mile and one furlong contest, having previously landed the spoils in 2013, 2014 and 2016. The New One has appeared twice so far this season, landing the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las on October 21 and coming home fourth under top-weight in the G3 Unibet Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham on November 19.
Strong opposition to The New One could be provided by Melon (Willie Mullins IRE, 7/2),runner-up in the G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at The Festival last season and a comfortable winner on his seasonal return in a G2 contest at Down Royal last month. Another eye-catching contender is My Tent Or Yours (Nicky Henderson, 3/1), who has finished runner-up in three of the last four renewals of the Unibet Champion Hurdle at The Festival (2014, 2016 & 2017).
Dan Skelton is hoping Ch'tibello (8/1) can pick up from where he left off last season. The six-year-old has not raced since going down by a length to Yanworth in the G2 Betway Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton in February, after which he was ruled of The Festival with a foot infection.
Successful in the 2016 G2 Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr, Ch'tibello captured a valuable two-mile conditions race at Haydock Park in November, 2016, and also finished third behind Yanworth in the G1 Unibet Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
Skelton said today: "I am happy with Ch'tibello and the plan is to run in the Unibet International Hurdle. "Chasing has been mentioned, but we looked at this race and thought it could be a small runner field, which it is going to be, so we said we would give it a go. This race is worth plenty of money and he can go in a 10 grand chase whenever.
"He improved last season and I hope there is more improvement in him. I don't know but I hope so."
Also among the entries is Old Guard (Paul Nicholls, 10/1), successful in the Unibet International Hurdle in 2015 and victorious in handicap company at Newbury last time out on December 2. Completing the entries are John Constable (Evan Williams, 14/1), triumphant in competitive handicaps at Haydock Park and Market Rasen earlier in 2017, plus Dell' Arca (David Pipe, 25/1).
Unibet International Hurdle, Unibet odds: 7/4 The New One; 3/1 My Tent Or Yours; 7/2 Melon; 8/1 Ch'tibello; 10/1 Old Guard; 14/1 John Constable 25/1 Dell' Arca
Each-Way: 1/4 odds, 1-2
JCB Triumph Hurdle favourite Apple's Shakira (Nicky Henderson) headlines nine entries for the opening race on Saturday, the £20,000 JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (12.10pm) over two miles and a furlong.
French import Apple's Shakira, a full-sister to the top-class Apple's Jade, made short work of her rivals in a similar contest at The November Meeting, drawing clear impressively to win by 17 lengths.
Her potential rivals on Saturday include stablemate We Have A Dream, a 10-length victor at Warwick on his UK debut last month, and promising Newcastle scorer Act Of Valour (Paul Nicholls), who is 97-rated on the Flat.
Day two of The International also features the £120,000 G3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (1.55pm, 17 confirmations), a prestigious handicap chase over two miles and five furlongs.
The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup could see a rematch between the first five horses home from last month's BetVictor Gold Cup - Splash Of Ginge (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 10st 10lb), Starchitect (David Pipe, 11st 5lb), Le Prezien (Paul Nicholls, 11st 9lb). Ballyalton (Ian Williams, 11st) and Romain De Senam (Paul Nicholls, 11st 2lb).
The International gets underway with a seven-race programme on Friday, December 15, when the highlights are the £45,000 G3 Unicoin Group Handicap Chase (2.30pm) and the £35,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase (3.05pm).