Weird Al is on course to make his seasonal reappearance in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.
The lightly-raced nine-year-old finished 10 lengths behind Kauto Star last season after an easy win in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby. Donald McCain's charge failed to complete in his final two starts last term, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and in the John Smith's Grand National, but is reportedly in rude health for his comeback.
McCain said: "He is in grand form and I am very happy with him. He didn't run in the Charlie Hall Chase this year because I just wanted to give him a bit more time.
"He ran well in the Betfair Chase last season and then he disappointed in the Gold Cup, but that's just the one run. He was still in with a chance when he came down in the Grand National.
"You would not be confident on Saturday when you are taking on horses of that quality but we would be hopeful he runs a big race. He likes nice ground but he will cope if the ground is soft as it was slow enough last year."
Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Long Run and Imperial Commander also appear amongst the nine entries. Nicky Henderson's Long Run, who took the Cheltenham highlight in 2011, chased home the rejuvenated Kauto Star in this valuable Grade One event 12 months ago.
It has been a long road back for Imperial Commander, the 2010 Betfair winner who was pulled up on his most recent start in Long Run's Gold Cup.
Imperial Commander's jockey Paddy Brennan is excited about the assignment, tweeting: "Had my final sit on Imperial Commander this am before the Betfair Chase on Sat. I jumped 8 fences on him & he felt great."
Paul Nicholls, who has won four of the seven runnings of the Lancashire highlight, could rely upon recent Charlie Hall winner Silviniaco Conti and Tidal Bay, who bolted up in the John Smith's Hurdle on the same day at Wetherby.
The Neil Mulholland-trained Midnight Chase and Wayward Prince, now with Hilary Parrott, are still engaged. This year's Gold Cup runner-up The Giant Bolster could make his seasonal reappearance for David Bridgwater, while Cannington Brook completes the line-up.
9 March 2014Hope springs eternal for Encore
Avenue roads lead to Irish Oaks
Fab Fly to tackle Champion octet
Dude's the main man
Top trainers reject watering
Hinterland takes Champion test
Baltimore sets up bonus bid
Warrior wins Trial battle
Fallon hits Meydan heights
Chartreux bounces back to best
Brave Vic has Final word
Soumillon strikes on super Shea
On His Own joins Gold Cup field
8 March 2014Queally hits Sandown target
Briar tops Bartlett contenders
Calipto leads Triumph hopefuls
Ginge fires burn brightly for Neild
Creek forced out of Gold Cup
Milan targeting Final glory
McCoy to miss Sunday and Monday
Exchange rate pays dividend
Temps doubtful for Festival
Conor settles in at Cheltenham
De Bromhead sweet on Special
Epsom to honour St Nick
Mullins dominates JLT entries
Al and Dynaste top Ryanair field
Big two lead World possibles
7 March 2014Lockinge target for Tonto
All set for a super Saturday
Silver aiming to shine
Imperial only thought for Honeyball
Distance fears for Highland
Montiridge preps for Dubai trip
Ayr gets go-ahead
Ayr delay inspection decision
Benbulben misses Cheltenham
Card 'gut wrencher' for Tizzard
Guard stands tall for new record
Faugheen looms over Neptune field
Ballycasey stands firm in RSA
Sire spearheads Queen Mother list
Australia still in Derby shake-up
Henderson perfectly happy with Tent
Regal leads the way in Imperial
6 March 2014McNamara in 'excellent spirits'
Codd snapped up for Sea
Farm National bid in the balance
Byron all set for Aussie challenge
Ayr takes precautions
Bridgwater salutes unsung hero
Murtagh watches on at Lingfield
Mullins retains Fly supporting cast
Bittar welcomes bill amendments
Fenton cleared for Festival runners
Trip concerns sway McCoy to Fishers
Regal vies for Imperial rule
Mullins quintet in Supreme mix
Arkle has Champagne sparkle
Rizeena given dual Guineas options