Paddy Power Gold Cup runner-up Walkon and progressive novice chaser Unioniste head 23 five-day confirmations for the £100,000 Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup (2.30pm) on day two of The International at Cheltenham, Saturday, 15 December.
Walkon is set to bid for compensation at Cheltenham after going down by three lengths to Al Ferof in the highlight of The Open. The Alan King-trained seven-year-old was fifth in the RSA Chase at The Festival in March and was runner-up in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the 2009 Festival.
Unioniste ran well in defeat at The Open as well, coming home third behind Dynaste in the Steel Plate and Sections Novices' Chase and Paul Nicholls' charge could bid to become the first four-year-old to capture the Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup. The previous youngest winner was five-year-old The Laird in 1966.
John Hales, owner of Unioniste who has the lowest weight of 9st 8lb and is currently set to carry the 10st minimum, said: "Unioniste is in the novices' chase on Friday but our preferred option for him is the Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup.
"I thought he ran an excellent race behind Dynaste last time and we have no hesitation in running him in this race because he jumps like a veteran.
"I would be quite confident of a big run and if the ground is on the soft side that won't bother him either being by Dom Alco."
Nicholls may also be represented in the two mile, five furlong handicap chase by Cristal Bonus, an easy winner of a Grade Two chase at Down Royal on 3 November, and Ghizao, who is part-owned by race-sponsor the Stewart Family.
Ghizao, a Grade Two winner over fences at Cheltenham who was sixth in this race 12 months ago, returned to action with a facile victory in a graduation chase at Kempton Park on 5 November prior to coming home third in the Grade Two Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot on 24 November.
Tatenen was one place behind Ghizao in last year's Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup and the eight-year-old is also set to carry the Stewart Family colours on his seasonal return in Saturday's race.
The Richard Rowe-trained eight-year-old has posted a pair of major handicap victories at Ascot over the past two seasons and unseated Andrew Thornton on his most recent start in the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree in April.
Andy Stewart revealed: "Tatenen and Ghizao will both run in the Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup.
"Ghizao is very difficult to place off 155 and we were thinking of going to the Peterborough Chase with him but (co-owner) David Johnson and myself thought it would be better to go to Cheltenham.
"He ran well in a good race last time and has come on for that. He was a superb novice who lost his way a little bit but let's see if we can get him back on track.
"Tatenen is absolutely fine and his main aim will be trying to win the Victor Chandler handicap at Ascot in January for the third year in a row. We did have him in the Hennessy Gold Cup but when it came up bottomless we thought we could come for my race at Cheltenham.
"Andrew Thornton will ride and I think Richard is quite optimistic. As long as the ground isn't bottomless, it will be fine for him."
Nicky Henderson has his string in superb form and the trainer is responsible for the Paddy Power Gold Cup third Nadiya De La Vega and last season's Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup victor Quantitativeeasing.
Other notable confirmations include Notus De La Tour, a Grade One runner-up in Ireland for David Pipe, last season's Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase hero Hunt Ball and the Philip Hobbs-trained pair of Wishfull Thinking and Menorahm who top with 11st 12lb and 11st 10lb respectively.
Saturday's seven-race card starts with the two mile, one furlong £20,000 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial (12.10pm) for which 10 juveniles have been entered including the Paul Nicholls-trained Far West, who was a ready winner of the Grade Two JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at The Open.
Our Father also produced an impressive display at The Open, taking the Rewards4Racing Novices' Chase by 20 lengths, and the David Pipe-trained six-year-old features among 14 entries for the £20,000 Ryman Stationery Novices' Chase (12.45pm) over an extended three miles and one furlong.
Coneygree, successful for Mark Bradstock in the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle victor at The Open, could return to Cheltenham for the three-mile £25,000 Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (1.55pm, 13 entries).
Nicky Henderson has won three of the last 10 renewals of the £30,000 Jenny Mould Memorial Handicap Chase (1.20pm, 17 entries) and the trainer could aim to enhance his enviable record in the extended two-mile contest with Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup second Tanks For That.
The two mile, one furlong £130,000 Grade Two StanJames.com International (3.05pm), which is set to feature the seasonal return of last season's Stan James Champion Hurdle victor Rock On Ruby, and the £40,000 Grade Two Unicoin Homes Relkeel Hurdle (3.40pm) over an extended two and a half miles have both re-opened until 11.00am tomorrow.
Day one of The International on Friday, 14 December, features the £45,000 Grade Three Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Chase (1.55pm) and the £35,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Steeple Chase (2.30pm).
Meeting: The International
Dates: Friday & Saturday – December 14 & 15
Gates Open: 10am both days
First Race: 12.15pm Friday, 12.10pm Saturday
Admission prices from £9. Go to www.cheltenham.co.uk for further information