Rigadin De Beauchene, who has finished first and second in the last two renewals of the Betfred Grand National Trial, is among 13 horses declared for the staying handicap chase at Haydock tomorrow.
The Venetia Williams-trained 10-year-old took the prize 12 months ago after finishing second to Well Refreshed in 2013.
He has been pulled up in all his three starts since his win in this race, with his latest outing coming in the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick last month. His stablemate Ballyoliver, who was sixth behind Hawkes Point that day, is also in the line-up.
The weights are headed by the Paul Nicholls-trained Benvolio, who was second to the Williams-trained Emperors Choice in the Welsh Grand National.
Monbeg Dude, who was fourth, is set to take his chance for trainer Michael Scudamore and bid to improve on his third place in this race two years ago.
Samstown and Benbens, who were only separated by a neck in the Peter Marsh Chase on this course four weeks ago, will again do battle. Completing the field are Gas Line Boy, Trustan Times, Lie Forrit, Broadway Buffalo, Mountainous, Loch Ba and Harry The Viking.
The three horses withdrawn at the 48-hour final declaration stage were Super Duty, Alpha Victor and Glenquest.
At Ascot, Paul Nicholls’ unbeaten novice Ptit Zig is among a field of six declared for the Betfair Ascot Chase.
Nicholls decided to pitch the six-year-old against more experienced performers in this Grade One over two miles, five and a half furlongs after stablemate Al Ferof was ruled out with a setback earlier in the week.
Ptit Zig has won all his four starts over fences so far, including one at Ascot, and is a leading fancy for the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham next month.
Champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins will rely on Ballycasey after taking out Champagne Fever, who has an entry in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran on Saturday.
Alan King has declared last season’s Grade One novice chase scorer Balder Succes, who returned to winning ways at Kempton last month.
Nicky Henderson runs both Ma Filleule and Rajdhani Express while the Colin Tizzard-trained Theatre Guide completes the line-up.
Meanwhile, Connections of the exciting More Of That will not make an immediate decision on whether Jonjo O’Neill’s charge will defend his crown in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle after he was found to have bled following a workout on Wednesday morning.