Sir Des Champs will be bidding for revenge on Flemenstar
©Healy Racing Photos
Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs are the star names among nine runners in a fantastic renewal of the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on Friday.
Flemenstar was one of Ireland's leading novice chasers last term and has carried on his progress this season.
He made a winning return over two miles before slamming previously unbeaten chaser Sir Des Champs in the two-and-a-half-mile John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.
The pair lock horns again in the feature event of Leopardstown's Christmas Festival, but this time the distance is three miles, which is further than Flemenstar has gone before under Rules.
Tidal Bay appears as good as ever this season, despite officially turning 12 next week.
After making a winning return to action over hurdles at Wetherby, he ran a superb race to finish second behind Bobs Worth under top weight in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Tidal Bay is joined on the trip from Britain by Neil Mulholland's stable star Midnight Chase.
Mouse Morris saddles Hennessy First Lieutenant and China Rock, the latter making his first appearance since winning the Punchestown Gold Cup in the spring.
Shark Hanlon's progressive Hidden Cyclone adds further strength in depth.
Pandorama has his first start since the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup, while Quito De La Roque completes the stellar field.
Trainer Peter Casey has always been of the opinion Flemenstar could develop into a realistic Cheltenham Gold Cup contender.
"He's all ready to go. Everything is grand. He did a nice bit of work the other day," said the County Meath handler.
"This is his big test and at quarter past three tomorrow we'll know a lot more about where we're going.
"I think there is a lot of rain coming in, but I'm not worried about that - the ground makes no difference to him.
"At the moment I'm not worrying about any of the other horses in the race.
"I'm very happy with our horse and you've just got to go and take your chance.
"We'll either come home disappointed or delighted."
Andrew Lynch has been ever present in the saddle during Flemenstar's career over fences and is hopeful three miles will not be a problem.
"I gave him a breeze the other day and he seems in good form. With the trip you never know for sure until you try, but he gives you every impression he'll stay," said the jockey.
"It's a very good race. First Lieutenant, Sir Des Champs, Tidal Bay, Quito De La Roque - they are all good horses.
"We'll decide what way we'll ride him nearer the time, but he's a very straightforward horse to ride."