There are 103 entries across the seven races for day one of the inaugural Winter Million at Lingfield Park on Friday, January 21.
Headlining the card is the £100,000 Sovereign Handicap Hurdle (3.35pm) over two miles, in which the 21 entries include last season’s G1 Tolworth Hurdle victor Metier from the stable of Harry Fry.
Metier failed to fire on his comeback at Sandown Park on December 4 but shaped much better to finish fourth behind Tritonic in a valuable handicap hurdle at Ascot two weeks later.
Fry, who also plans to run exciting mare Love Envoi at the meeting, said: “The Sovereign Handicap Hurdle is the plan for Metier.
“It was nice to see him bounce back in the big handicap hurdle at Ascot before Christmas and this race has been very much on the radar since then.
“Everything about the race should suit him well and we are looking forward to seeing him back on his favoured heavy ground.
“Love Envoi has an entry in the Winter Million Mares' Novices' Hurdle and will also be entered in the Winter Million Novices' Handicap Hurdle on the Sunday.
“She relishes testing ground and has done everything right so far, winning a bumper in Ireland and two hurdle races for us, and we would be hopeful that she can continue on an upward curve.
“The prize money across the Winter Million weekend is very good and we are delighted to be targeting horses at it. Hopefully, we can win some!”
Other high-profile contenders for the Sovereign Handicap Hurdle include likely top-weight Hunters Call, who was third in the G2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham last time out, and Garry Clermont, who finished one place ahead of Metier at Ascot.
Emmet Mullins plundered three big handicaps on these shores with The Shunter last season and the Irish handler has two contenders in unexposed five-year-old Carrarea and Sevenna Star, a one-time Classic contender on the Flat for John Gosden.
The other Irish-trained entry is Lucky Max from the stable of Sean Doyle. Lucky Max has not looked back since getting off the mark over hurdles at Clonmel in October, following up with a pair of smooth handicap successes at Cork.
The Sovereign Handicap Hurdle is supported by three £50,000 contests, with On The Blind Side and Emitom topping nine entries for the Winter Million Hurdle (2.25pm) over two miles and seven furlongs.
Fantastikas, who was third in the G2 Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on his latest start, is one of the standouts in the Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Novices' Chase (3.00pm, 14 entries) over just short of three miles. Impressive Warwick scorer Threeunderthrufive plus the Dan Skelton-trained duo of Ashtown Lad and Midnight River are also engaged.
Eclair D’Ainay is likely to hold leading claims for the Skeltons in the racehorselotto.com Handicap Chase (1.50pm, 13 entries) over two miles following his victory in the Castleford Handicap Chase at Wetherby over Christmas.
Queenohearts, who was a G2-winning hurdler for Stuart Edmunds, could make her debut for Kim Bailey in the £45,000 Winter Million EBF Mares' Novices' Handicap Chase (1.20pm, 13 entries) after more than a year off the track.
The other races on the card are the Winter Million Mares' Novices' Hurdle (12.50pm, 13 entries) and the concluding Winter Million Handicap Chase (4.08pm, 20 entries), which could feature G1 winner Slate House.
The Winter Million continues on Saturday, January 22, and Sunday, January 23, when the respective highlights are the £100,000 Coral Winter Oaks and the £150,000 Fleur De Lys Chase. Entries for both races close at noon on Monday, January 17.