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December Gold Cup: Fakir D'oudairies tops 15 confirmed for Cheltenham feature on Saturday

"It will be nice to get him back started this season and it looks a good place for his reappearance," says Joseph O'Brien of Fakir D'oudairies; Paul Nicholls set to be double-handed at Cheltenham with Monmiral and Il Ridoto; Richard Hobson's Fugitif also entered along with Thunder Rock

Fakir D'Oudairies and Mark Walsh pull clear to win the Marsh Chase at Aintree
Image: Fakir D'oudairies is on course to make his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham on Saturday

Joseph O'Brien's Fakir D'oudairies adds a touch of class to proceedings at Cheltenham as he tops the 15 confirmed for the Virgin Bet December Gold Cup Handicap Chase.

The eight-year-old has been something of a stable star for O'Brien over the years, picking up Grade One prizes at both Aintree and Ascot and regularly seen competing against the very best.

He now drops into handicap company for his seasonal return, with his Owning Hill handler confirming he is on course to appear at Prestbury Park on Saturday.

"The plan is for him to run at Cheltenham," said O'Brien.

"It will be nice to get him back started this season and it looks a good place for his reappearance. Hopefully he goes well dropping in class."

Fakir D'oudairies is one of two possible runners in the race for owner JP McManus with Emmet Mullins' So Scottish another potential raider from Ireland.

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Champion trainer Paul Nicholls is also set to be double-handed with Monmiral joining Paddy Power Gold Cup third Il Ridoto on the Ditcheat teamsheet.

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"I'm looking forward to Saturday, they're both in great shape," Nicholls said in his 'Ditcheat Diary' on Betfair.

"Bryony [Frost] is going to ride Il Ridoto and Harry [Cobden] is going to ride Monmiral. We've just schooled them both and they're both in good order.

Il Ridoto ridden by Harry Cobden before going on to win the Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase
Image: Il Ridoto is set to be ridden by Bryony Frost at the weekend

"Monmiral is a Grade One winner coming back from a few problems, I'm looking forward to running him."

Richard Hobson's Fugitif has a fine Cheltenham record and attempts to better his fourth at the track last month now switching to the New course which suits him better, while Thunder Rock saw the form of his winning Carlisle reappearance franked by the runner-up Mahler Mission at Newbury and will represent trainer Olly Murphy.

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