Might Bite and Sizing John all feature among a stellar cast of 26 entries for
the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton.
The Colin Tizzard-trained Thistlecrack was a brilliant winner of the Boxing Day highlight last season and although he has not been seen in competitive action since being beaten by the ill-fated Many Clouds at Cheltenham in January, he is favourite with some bookmakers to successfully defend his crown.
In an interview for The Jockey Club's Love The Jumps podcast, Tizzard said: " We had him in first week in August, we're now nearly in November and we're just starting to go a bit faster with him."
He went on: "He's got a month of fast work and he'll be ready to run. He'll have a hurdle before we go in the King George because we can't really go there first time up. "I feel his legs once a week now and someone else feels them every other day and they seem absolutely fine. So we'll treat him with no kid gloves. He will be doing all his work in the next month ready for his first race."
The Dorset-based trainer has a strong hand, with 2015 King George hero Cue Card and dual Grade One-winning chaser Fox Norton also in contention.
Might Bite was set to run out a brilliant winner of the Kauto Star Novices' Chase over the King George course and distance last year before suffering a heavy fall at the final fence. Nicky Henderson's charge looks set to return to the Sunbury venue for a crack at the big one this time around, provided he comes through his intended comeback race at Sandown this weekend unscathed. Jessica Harrington's Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John heads a formidable Irish squad at the first entry stage. Willie Mullins has entered both Douvan and Djakadam, while Gordon Elliott's Outlander, the Noel Meade-trained pair of Disko and Road To Respect, and Coney Island from Eddie Harty's yard are other potential challengers from across the Irish Sea. Mark Bradstock's 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree also has an entry.