Thistlecrack is the general even-money favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup following publication of the entries for the race on Wednesday.
His trainer Colin Tizzard has five horses engaged, the same number as Gordon Elliott though Elliott's quintet includes last year's winner Don Cossack whose retirement from racing was confirmed earlier in the day.
There are 39 entries for the March 17th three and a quarter mile showpiece. This year's race has a purse of £575,000.
The nine-year-old Thistlecrack, a runaway winner of the Stayers' Hurdle in 2016, extended his unbeaten sequence over fences to four with a dominant victory over stablemate and eight-time Group 1 scorer Cue Card in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park last month.
Thistlecrack is out to become the second novice chaser, after Coneygree in 2015, to win the Gold Cup since Captain Christy succeeded in 1974.
The Tizzard team is strengthened further by Native River, who has lifted the Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh Grand National - the latter under top-weight - in two starts over fences this season, exciting French import Alary and Theatre Guide, winner of a G3 handicap chase at Cheltenham in December.
Elliott has also put in Outlander and Don Poli, who led home and one-two for the stable in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, Empire Of Dirt and Roi Des Francs, all for Gigginstown.
Zabana (Andrew Lynch) defeated Outlander by two lengths to win the three-mile Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown in April. He captured a minor chase at Gowran Park in November before coming home seventh behind Outlander over Christmas.
Zabana has good form at the Festival, having just been touched off in the 2015 Coral Cup, but unseated Davy Russell at the start of last year's JLT Novices' Chase won by Black Hercules.
Trainer Andrew Lynch said: "Zabana is just ticking over at the moment and could run next in the Irish Gold Cup depending on the ground. He went a bit wide in the Lexus and I think he will get closer to them next time. That's what I am hoping. He is in the Gold Cup and also in the Ryanair. We will just see how things work out between now and then. I would have no problem going for the Gold Cup as he loves Cheltenham and the trip will be no problem."
"Thistlecrack looks the real one in the Gold Cup. He is improving but apart from him it looks quite open."
The Gold Cup is one of the few races to have eluded the all-conquering Willie Mullins and he has a couple of entries this year, both owned by Susannah Ricci, in Djakadam, runner-up for the past two years, and Vroum Vroum Mag, successful in last season's Group 1 OLBG Mares' Hurdle at The Festival and victorious on all her six starts over fences. Mullins has been responsible for six Gold Cup seconds.
Paul Nicholls is the most successful current trainer in the Gold Cup with four victories and the two entries from Britain's champion trainer are dual King George hero Silviniaco Conti and Saphir Du Rheu.
Only once has the Gold Cup gone to France (The Fellow in 1994). There is French representation among this year's entries with Vezeley (Emmanuel Clayeux), who shaped well on his British debut when third to Cue Card and Coneygree in the G1 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November.
Nicky Henderson, successful in the Gold Cup with Long Run (2011) and Bobs Worth (2013), has made an entry for Kotkikova. The six-year-old mare is a Grade 1 winner in France but was only fifth on her debut for the Seven Barrows handler behind Vroum Vroum Mag in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 28th.
Hopes of keeping the Gold Cup in Gloucestershire rest with Jonjo O'Neill, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Fergal O'Brien.
O'Neill has a trio of entries including 2014 Stayers' Hurdle winner More Of That, this season's BetVictor Gold Cup scorer Taquin Du Seuil and Minella Rocco, who landed the four-mile National Hunt Chase at the Festival in 2016.
Twiston-Davies' two entries are Blaklion, who took the RSA Chase in 2016, and Bristol De Mai, runner-up in the 2016 JLT Novices' Chasel. O'Brien's entry is Perfect Candidate, twice a winner in handicaps over the course and distance.
Other Gold Cup entries include the 2014 winner Lord Windermere (Jim Culloty) and 2015 Grand National hero Many Clouds (Oliver Sherwood), who was sixth in the 2015 renewal.
MORE CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL NEWS IN THE IRISH FIELD THIS WEEKEND
TIMICO CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP
Grade 1, £575,000. 3.30pm, Friday, March 17th. 3m 2f 110yds.
Horse Age Owner Trainer
ALARY (FR) 7 Ann & Alan Potts Colin Tizzard
ARCTIC SKIPPER (IRE) 8 L Halley Vincent Halley IRE
BLAKLION 8 S Such & CG Paletta Nigel Twiston-Davies
BRISTOL DE MAI (FR) 6 Simon Munir & Isaac Souede Nigel Twiston-Davies
CHAMPAGNE WEST (IRE) 9 Roger Brookhouse Henry de Bromhead IRE
CUE CARD 11 Jean Bishop Colin Tizzard
DJAKADAM (FR) 8 Susannah Ricci Willie Mullins IRE
DON COSSACK (GER) 10 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
DON POLI (IRE) 8 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
EMPIRE OF DIRT (IRE) 10 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
FINE RIGHTLY (IRE) 9 Patricia Duffin Stuart Crawford IRE
IRISH CAVALIER (IRE) 8 A McIver Rebecca Curtis
KOTKIKOVA (FR) 6 J P McManus Nicky Henderson
KYLEMORE LOUGH 8 M J McMahon & Denis Gallagher Kerry Lee
LORD WINDERMERE (IRE) 11 Dr Ronan Lambe Jim Culloty IRE
MANY CLOUDS (IRE) 10 Trevor Hemmings Oliver Sherwood
MINELLA ROCCO (IRE) 7 J P McManus Jonjo O'Neill
MORE OF THAT (IRE) 9 J P McManus Jonjo O'Neill
NATIVE RIVER (IRE) 7 Brocade Racing Colin Tizzard
OUTLANDER (IRE) 9 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
PERFECT CANDIDATE (IRE) 10 ISL Recruitment Fergal O'Brien
ROAD TO RICHES (IRE) 10 Gigginstown House Stud Noel Meade IRE
ROI DES FRANCS (FR) 8 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
SAPHIR DU RHEU (FR) 8 The Stewart Family Paul Nicholls
SAUSALITO SUNRISE (IRE) 9 Diana Whateley Philip Hobbs
SHANTOU FLYER (IRE) 7 Carl Hinchy Rebecca Curtis
SILVINIACO CONTI (FR) 11 Chris Giles & Potensis Bloodstock Ltd Paul Nicholls
SIZING JOHN 7 Ann & Alan Potts Partnership Jessica Harrington IRE
SMAD PLACE (FR) 10 Mrs Peter Andrews Alan King
SUB LIEUTENANT (IRE) 8 Gigginstown House Stud Henry de Bromhead IRE
TAQUIN DU SEUIL (FR) 10 Martin Broughton & Friends 1 Jonjo O'Neill
TEA FOR TWO 8 Jane Williams & Len Jakeman Nick Williams
THEATRE GUIDE (IRE) 10 Jean Bishop Colin Tizzard
THISTLECRACK 9 John and Heather Snook Colin Tizzard
VALSEUR LIDO (FR) 8 Gigginstown House Stud Henry de Bromhead IRE
VEZELAY (FR) 8 P Joubert Emmanuel Clayeux FR
VROUM VROUM MAG (FR) 8 Susannah Ricci Willie Mullins IRE
WOUNDED WARRIOR (IRE) 8 Gigginstown House Stud Noel Meade IRE
ZABANA (IRE) 8 Chris Jones Andrew Lynch IRE