THE early December clash at Punchestown in the John Durkan Chase between Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs was highly anticipated, but tomorrow's Lexus Chase at Leopardstown is arguably the most mouth-watering race of the season so far.
Both Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs will reappear, Paul Nicholls sends over Tidal Bay to join the tussle, while Hidden Cyclone, First Lieutenant and China Rock also step up to the plate in an attempt to put down some Gold Cup claims.
Few will be looking beyond the front two in the betting, however, as Flemenstar has captured the hearts of so many and few Sir Des Champs supporters were despondent following his seasonal debut at Punchestown.
Tomorrow's Lexus is sure to tell us a lot. For Flemenstar, it will answer the most asked question as to whether or not he will stay three miles. As far as Sir Des Champs is concerned, we will be able to gauge how much he's come on from his first to second run of the season and if he is, as some believe, a better horse going left handed.
Tidal Bay and First Lieutenant will be posing questions and hopefully providing some answers into the strength of their Hennessy form behind Bobs Worth. China Rock will be having his first start since a tongue-tie seemingly worked miracles to see him win the Punchestown Gold Cup.
Long Run won the King George and was unlikely to have changed too many opinions, so the Lexus is a race that could really send a ripple through the market for next March.
Sir Des Champs will undoubtedly have come on for the John Durkan, but whether that will be enough to take him past Flemenstar at the business end of tomorrow's race remains to be seen.
Casey's Flemenstar has always had a fan in yours truly and I won't be looking by him at this juncture either.
The question over his ability to see out the trip comes from those who ignore his pedigree which suggests it will be no problem.
The fact that he has the toe to win good races over two miles has led some to think that he can't possibly stay three miles in good company. To me, that is just a bonus.
We won't know until he tries it, but now, after much speculation and seven straight wins over fences, the point-to-point winner (over three miles) will get the opportunity to silence the doubters and cement his place as Ireland's leading Gold Cup horse for this season.
It will be interesting to see how the English form translates over to tomorrow's race.
Tidal Bay and First Lieutenant were no match for Bobs Worth, but he certainly looked well in that day compared to Tidal Bay who had to give away six pounds and First Lieutenant can be expected to improve again for the run as Mouse Morris gears him up for the latter part of the season.
It's an intriguing contest to say the least. It would be a surprise if Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs didn't fill the first two places -- it would be a surprise if Flemenstar didn't stay the trip and on that basis, he remains the one to beat.