WITH Big Buck's ruled out for the season and an unfortunate absentee from the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham, the race has attracted a record number of entries which sees Quevega head the betting.
Willie Mullins' four-time Mares Hurdle winner is said to be still being aimed for a fifth win in that race, but nevertheless the bookmakers have still made her the favourite for the three-mile Grade One on the penultimate day.
A bumper entry of 61 horses was revealed yesterday, 10 of which reside with Willie Mullins and among his other entries are Thousand Stars and Zaidpour.
Paul Nicholls will look for a fifth straight win in the race and has six entries, with chasers Tidal Bay and Kauto Stone given the option to revert back over hurdles in March.
A total of 17 Irish-trained horses are included and Noel Meade's Monksland is sure to be high on most shortlists for the race after his win in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Noel Meade said of his charge yesterday: "All is well with him at the moment and the plan is to run Monksland in the World Hurdle. I am just giving him an easy time - a bit of a break - and then we will start building him up for Cheltenham."
Reflecting on his Leopardstown triumph, Meade added: "We were hopeful he would get the three miles at Leopardstown because he was staying on well in the Hatton's Grace, but maybe the way the race was run suited us. The leader went of at a hell of a gallop and perhaps the favourite followed him sooner than he should have, but Paul was very good on Monksland."
Monksland is set to go straight to the Cotswolds and Meade admitted that the race is after opening up with Big Buck's sidelined.
"With Big Buck's out of it, the World Hurdle has opened up. Monksland obviously stays well but he isn't a slow horse and has the speed to win over two miles. The plan is not to run him before Cheltenham and we are hoping there could be a bit more improvement.
"We have been purposely easy on him as he is a very clear-winded horse and doesn't take a lot of work to get fit. We are hoping by keeping him fresh that we will be able to prolong longevity."
Royal Ascot's 2010 Gold Cup winner Rite Of Passage, who heroically came back from injury to win the Long Distance Cup at the same venue, has been given an entry by Dermot Weld, while Oscar Whisky, Grand Crus and Peddlers Cross are the other notable inclusions on the list.