The North's great hope Sam Spinner headlines 19 going forward for the £339,595 G1 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle over three miles at Cheltenham on the third day of The Festival, St Patrick's Thursday, March 15.
Sam Spinner, trained in Middleham, North Yorkshire, by Jedd O'Keeffe, is the 4/1 favourite with Sun Bets as he bids to crown his breakthrough campaign.
The six-year-old galloped his rivals into submission in the G3 Betfair Stayers' Handicap Hurdle at Haydock Park in November, when scoring by 17 lengths, and last time out defeated L'Ami Serge (Nicky Henderson, 11/1 with Sun Bets) by two and three quarter lengths in the G1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on December 23.
Fellow Northern challenger Donna's Diamond (40/1) has been supplemented at a cost of £15,000 following two hurdle wins at Haydock Park in 2018. After romping to a 37-length victory in a handicap hurdle at the track in January, the nine-year-old repelled Agrapart by two and a quarter lengths to land the G2 Rendlesham Hurdle on February 17.
Donna's Diamond is trained by Chris Grant, who enjoyed a winner at The Festival as a jockey when partnering Harry Hastings to success in the 1985 Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Grant, who is based in County Durham, said today: "After Haydock, we were wondering where to go next and half thought about this.
"We have decided to have a go as the weather forecast looks favourable and we might not have a chance to have another runner down there for a long time.
"The softer the ground, the better for him and a real test of stamina will suit.
"We will see what turns up on the day, but it looks an open enough race. I am not saying we can win by why not have a crack at it and see what happens?"
There are seven Irish-trained contenders, headed by last year's G3 Coral Cup victor Supasundae (Jessica Harrington IRE, 9/2). Willie Mullins's five remaining entries include Penhill (8/1) and Let's Dance (25/1), both successful in novices' hurdles at The Festival in 2017, plus dual G1 victor Bacardys (12/1) and Augusta Kate (25/1).
Faugheen (Willie Mullins IRE, 10/1) and Apple's Jade (Gordon Elliott IRE, 11/2) have also been left in, although both are set to head elsewhere.
Owner J P McManus has two live contenders in G1 Liverpool Hurdle scorer Yanworth (Alan King, 11/2), who has been running over fences this season, and last year's Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle third Unowhatimeanharry (Harry Fry, 11/1).
Simon Munir and Isaac Souede are also double-handed courtesy of L'Ami Serge, winner of the G1 French Champion Hurdle in June, and four-time Cheltenham scorer Wholestone (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 12/1).
Wholestone's stablemate The New One (12/1) is set to tackle three miles for the first time. The popular 10-year-old, a three-time winner of Cheltenham's G2 Unibet International Hurdle over two miles and a furlong, has already raced at The Festival on six occasions, winning the G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle in 2013 and finishing third, fifth, fourth and fifth in the Unibet Champion Hurdle.
Lil Rockerfeller (Neil King, 20/1) could bid to go one better, having finished second in 2017.
High-class mares La Bague Au Roi (Warren Greatrex, 16/1) and Colin's Sister (Fergal O'Brien, 28/1), both successful in G2 company this season, also remain engaged. The Worlds End (Tom George, 20/1) and Old Guard (Paul Nicholls, 28/1) complete the six-day confirmations.
Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle - Sun Bets prices: 4/1 Sam Spinner; 9/2 Supasundae; 11/2 Apple's Jade, Yanworth; 8/1 Penhill; 10/1 Faugheen; 11/1 L'Ami Serge, Unowhatimeanharry; 12/1 Bacardys, The New One, Wholestone; 16/1 La Bague Au Roi; 20/1 Lil Rockerfeller, The World End; 25/1 Augusta Kate, Let's Dance; 28/1 Colin's Sister, Old Guard; 40/1 Donna's Diamond
Each-way 1/5 1-2-3
The championship contest over fences on St Patrick's Thursday is the £350,000 G1 Ryanair Chase (2.50pm) over two miles and five furlongs, which has 14 confirmations headed by last year's winner Un De Sceaux (Willie Mullins IRE), who is aiming to emulate the only previous dual winner of the race, Albertas Run (2010 & 2011).
Un De Sceaux has triumphed on both his appearances far this season and returns to Cheltenham on the back of an impressive display in the G1 Clarence House Chase at Ascot on January 20.
His trainer has seven entries going forward in total including leading G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase contenders Min and Douvan, plus Bachasson, Benie Des Dieux, Djakadam and Yorkhill, who also have multiple engagements next week.
Gigginstown House Stud, owned Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary, has had the runner-up in the race on four occasions and may rely on the Henry de Bromhead-trained pair of Balko Des Flos and Sub Lieutenant, second to Un De Sceaux last year.
Cue Card (Colin Tizzard) won the Ryanair Chase in 2013 and the remarkable 12-year-old, who also captured the G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2010, is due to make his seventh appearance at The Festival.
Last year's G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase runner-up Cloudy Dream (Ruth Jefferson) has filled the same position on all his four starts this season, most recently going down by 12 lengths to Native River in the G2 Denman Chase at Newbury on February 10.
The confirmations are completed by L'Ami Serge (Nicky Henderson), a G1 winner over hurdles, and the Paul Nicholls-trained pair of G1 Ascot Chase third Frodon, a dual course and distance winner in G3 handicap chases, and Le Prezien.
The terrific seven-race card kicks off with the £150,000 G1 JLT Novices' Chase (1.30pm), which has 24 acceptors including the first three home from the G1 Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown on February 4 - Monalee (Henry de Bromhead IRE) plus the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Al Boum Photo and Invitation Only.
Footpad, who is set to line up in the G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase on Champion Day, also features among a nine-strong Mullins contingent, with Finian's Oscar (Colin Tizzard), Terrefort (Nicky Henderson) and Modus (Paul Nicholls) also engaged.
Thomas Campbell (Nicky Henderson), successful at The Showcase and The November Meeting at Cheltenham this season, heads 41 confirmations for the £100,000 G3 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (2.10pm).
Sort It Out (Eddie Harty IRE) and Glenloe (Gordon Elliott IRE) feature among six J P McManus-owned acceptors for the three-mile handicap hurdle, with leading contenders Louis' Vac Pouch (Philip Hobbs), Forza Milan (Jonjo O'Neill) and Who Dares Wins (Alan King) also going forward.
Tully East (Alan Fleming IRE) captured the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase last year and the Barry Connell-owned eight-year-old could aim for a second success at The Festival in the £110,000 G3 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (4.10pm), which has 65 acceptors.
A strong Irish challenge for the two mile, five furlong handicap chase also includes Last Goodbye (Liz Doyle IRE), The Storyteller (Gordon Elliott IRE) and Vieux Morvan (Joseph O'Brien IRE), while the home contenders include King's Socks (David Pipe), runner-up to Footpad in a G1 hurdle in Auteuil, France, in 2016.
Mullins has won both runnings of the £90,000 G2 Trull House Stud Mares' Novices Hurdle (4.50pm) and the trainer has another strong hand in this year's race with six remaining entries headed by Laurina, an easy winner on both her starts this season.
Maria's Benefit (Stuart Edmunds) and Irish Roe (Peter Atkinson), first and second in the G2 olbg.com Yorkshire Rose Mares' Hurdle at Doncaster in January, and Countister (Nicky Henderson) are also among the 21 confirmations.
A total of 45 horse go forward for the £70,000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (5.30pm) include Mall Dini (Pat Kelly IRE), victorious in the Pertemps Network Final at The Festival in 2016, and Squouateur (Gordon Elliott IRE), who unseated Jamie Codd when travelling well in this race 12 months ago.
The going at Cheltenham is currently: Good to Soft, Soft in places
It was dry overnight. Rain is forecast from today through to Monday, yielding up to 17 millimetres.
The forecast for The Festival is:
Champion Day, Tuesday, March 13 - mostly dry
Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14 - up to nine millimetres of rain
St Patrick's Thursday, March 15 - mostly dry
Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16 - mostly dry