Trainer Alan King is optimistic his Long Walk Hurdle runner Smad Place can take full advantage of the enforced absence of Big Buck's at Ascot.
The five-year-old disappointed behind Tidal Bay in the John Smith's Hurdle at Wetherby on his reappearance seven weeks ago, but King is expecting a much better show this time.
"It is very sad that Big Buck's is out for the season, but the Long Walk Hurdle now has a real open look, and we have to fancy our chances with Smad Place," the Barbury Castle handler told www.alankingracing.co.uk.
"He disappointed us at Wetherby, but we were not happy with him when he got back and he subsequently missed the Hennessy meeting at Newbury. We have tweaked a few things at home and Smad Place was much more like his old self when we galloped him last Saturday so, hopefully, he can get back on track."
Jockey Robert Thornton is in similarly confident mood, telling At The Races: "We are very hopeful. He ran up at Wetherby and was slightly disappointing, but he's had a few checks and a full MOT just to iron out a few things. He seems in cracking form and is coming to himself so we are quietly confident.
"He's run some cracking races behind Big Buck's. It's got to be tempting with Big Buck's out for the rest of the season. You don't like to see that, but hopefully we can make the best of it."
With Big Buck's on the sidelines and Five Dream also out of the contest due to an infected foot, champion trainer Paul Nicholls relies on Prospect Wells. He has shown smart form at two miles for the last couple of seasons and Nicholls feels he could be even more effective over a longer distance.
"He's in no man's land in the handicap and I'm convinced he wants a trip. I've just got a feeling over three miles he's going to be really effective," he told www.betfair.com.
Nicky Henderson will be happy if his two runners Cucumber Run and Master Of The Hall could pick up some prize money, saying: "I put them in there thinking we would be running for place money with Big Buck's in there and even though he is out, I probably still am thinking like that.
"We have nowhere else to go with them and now they're entered they might as well run. Master Of The Hall is coming back to hurdles as there is nowhere for him to go over fences. I always thought Cucumber Run wanted better ground but he ran very well at Newbury. The handicapper put him up for that and hopefully his rating puts him somewhere in the firing line."
8 February 2016Willie Mullins dominates Betfair Hurdle contenders
Oliver Sherwood looks to Haydock with Deputy Dan
Limerick forced to call off early
Colin Bowe planning Festival prep for National Hunt Chase hope Shantou Flyer
Nicky Richards mulling Newlands run with Simply Ned
Taunton call inspection for Thursday card
Joseph Tuite puts Yorkshire Cup on Litigant agenda
Paul Nicholls identifies Pendil target for As De Mee
Dean Ivory praise for Chelmsford star Kadrizzi
Nicky Henderson gunning for Cheltenham with Musselburgh winner O O Seven
Noel Meade still sweet on Cheltenham Gold Cup with Road To Riches
Nicky Henderson plans to assess Peace And Co
Gitane Du Berlais stamps class on Listed heat at Naas
Nigel Twiston-Davies hails Bristol De Mai performance
McCoy retains Ivanovich Gorbatov faith despite Leopardstown eclipse
Colin Tizzard considering racecourse gallop for Gold Cup contender Cue Card
Jonjo O'Neill favouring Newbury date for More Of That
7 February 2016O O Seven has licence to thrill at Musselburgh
Kadrizzi delivers at Chelmsford for Dean Ivory
Paul Nicholls and Tommy Silver strike Musselburgh gold
Babbling Stream in full flow at Naas for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh
Charbel rules supreme at Musselburgh for Kim Bailey
Victoria Pendleton pulls up Working Title at Wadebridge point-to-point
Le Reve team have sights set on Grand National glory
Leopardstown date set to determine Aspen Colorado Cheltenham plan
Grendisar powers to Winter Derby Trial repeat at Lingfield
Sad postscript to Leopardstown hunter chase win for You Must Know Me
Saddlers Encore the hero in Sandown test
Carlingford Lough repeats Irish Gold Cup heroics in Leopardstown drama
Blaklion roars to Towton Chase glory at Wetherby
Outlander strikes in Flogas Chase for Grade One king Willie Mullins
Bristol De Mai on course for Cheltenham and JLT after stylish Scilly Isles win
Bleu Et Rouge too good for Tombstone in Deloitte at Leopardstown
Peace And Co shocked at Sandown as Connetable takes Contenders Hurdle
Ivanovich Gorbatov floored by Willie Mullins' trio in Spring Juvenile Hurdle
6 February 2016Ffos Las officials forced to concede defeat
Double delight for Aidan Coleman at Catterick
Ffos Las fixture subject to second inspection at midday
Andrew Tinkler looking forward to high-profile Musselburgh card
Green light for Ffos Las fixture
Zabana raring to go for Flogas mission
Definitly Red spells danger for Wetherby rivals in Towton Chase
Medinas returns to action at Sandown
Nicky Richards launches dual Welsh Champion raid at Ffos Las
Ffos Las fixture subject to morning check
Hunting star On The Fringe returns at Leopardstown
Can Bellshill give Yanworth something to think about at Leopardstown?
Outlander and Pont Alexandre loom large in Flogas Chase
Triumph Hurdle favourite Ivanovich Gorbatov bids to cement Festival place
Rebecca Curtis runners dominate West Wales National field
Tea For Two targeting Grade One double in Scilly Isles date
Sir Des Champs goes for more Gold for Gigginstown
Noel Meade surprised by Road To Riches' odds in Gold Cup test
Peace And Co out to prove he is a genuine Champion Hurdle contender
5 February 2016Alan King outlines plans for star juveniles
Nina Carberry misses On The Fringe mount following back injury
Victoria Pendleton heads to Wadebridge to continue riding experience
Cold As Ice aiming to sparkle for William Haggas in Cleves outing at Lingfield
American ace Frosted puts down World Cup marker at Meydan
Alan King 'keeps it simple' and focuses solely on Neptune with Yanworth
Henry Daly sets sights on Sandown with Towcester winner Flashjack
Arkwrisht proves best for Willie Mullins at Clonmel
Harry Whittington set to swerve Cheltenham with Arzal
Ivanovich Gorbatov tops Triumph list at Cheltenham Festival
Willie Mullins makes monster Supreme entry at Cheltenham
Howard Johnson - I wouldn't have confidence for a training return
Sandy Thomson rules Seeyouatmidnight out of Wetherby heat