Eight runners were declared for the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday after Big Buck's was the only defection at the 48-hour final declaration stage.
A wide-open race for the three-mile-one-furlong Grade One is on the cards after the brilliant stayer, winner of this race for the last three years, was ruled out through injury.
Paul Nicholls, the trainer of Big Buck's, could still take the honours with either Prospect Wells or Five Dream, while Nick Williams saddles Reve De Sivola, who stuck on well in the closing stages to finish second behind Big Buck's in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on his first run for almost a year.
Trustan Times is an interesting contender after defying top weight of 11st 12lb in the "Fixed Brush" Handicap Hurdle at Haydock for North Yorkshire trainer Tim Easterby.
Alan King is represented by Smad Place while Nicky Henderson is double-handed with Master Of The Hall and Cucumber Run. The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Kayf Aramis completes the field.
Conditions at Ascot are certain to be testing for the two-day fixture culminating in Saturday's card featuring the Long Walk Hurdle and The Ladbroke.
The course is currently raceable but Stickels has not ruled out the possibility of calling a precautionary inspection at some stage.
"We've had 28 millimetres of rain and the going is heavy, soft in places," clerk of the course Chris Stickels told At The Races.
"At the moment we are OK and coping with what we've got. At the moment we are quite happy and will monitor it as the day goes on. Potentially we could get seven up to nine millimetres maybe.
"If we do get that we may have to call a precautionary inspection, but at the moment it's taking it.
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