Altior will face a maximum of nine rivals in Saturday’s Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.
Nicky Henderson’s charge is unbeaten in 14 starts over jumps – a run that features three successive wins at the Cheltenham Festival, including the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March.
A well-publicised breathing problem ruled him out of the Tingle Creek and the first half of the last campaign.
However, he has top-class form at Sandown – having won the Celebration Chase in each of the last two seasons – and he is reported to be firing on all cylinders for his imminent return.
Henderson told At The Races: “So far he has been frighteningly good, but it’s never going to be easy – it’s going to be a tough race.”
Un De Sceaux won the 2016 Tingle Creek and could bid to regain his crown for Willie Mullins.
The champion trainer has also entered the prolific Great Field and Min, while Henry de Bromhead’s veteran Special Tiara completes the potential Irish challenge.
Saint Calvados caused an upset when beating the Mullins-trained Footpad on his seasonal reappearance at Naas, and his trainer Harry Whittington has already stated his intention to have a crack at Altior this weekend.
Sceau Royal is an interesting contender for Alan King after return from a 10-month absence with an impressive victory in last month’s Shloer Chase at Cheltenham.
Kerry Lee’s Gino Trail, the Tom George-trained God’s Own and Speredek from Nigel Hawke’s yard are the other hopefuls.