Paul Nicholls could yet bypass the Cheltenham Festival altogether with Tidal Bay in order for him to make it to the John Smith's Grand National in the best possible shape.
The champion trainer finally ended a long quest to win the Aintree showpiece a year ago with Neptune Collonges and he appeared delighted with the lenience shown by handicapper Phil Smith towards top-weight Tidal Bay this time.
Second in the Hennessy and subsequently the winner of an epic Lexus Chase over Christmas, the once-quirky veteran missed an outing at Cheltenham trials day when some pus was found in a foot.
Nicholls said: "Tidal Bay has been in great form and he is due to run off 4lb lower than he did in the Hennessy. That's a huge incentive to run and I think the handicapper has given him an outstanding chance. We always knew he'd be on 11st 10lb, it was just the rating itself we wanted to find out.
"I've taken him out of the Gold Cup and I don't want to rush him. If he's ready he can go for the World Hurdle, but I don't want to forego his chance in the National."
Nicholls has three other interesting contenders and expects each to line up. No decisions have been made on jockeys, with Ruby Walsh juggling commitments with Nicholls, Willie Mullins and possibly his father Ted.
The champion trainer added: "What A Friend (11st 5lb) has the same sort of profile to Neptune Collonges, having been placed in a Gold Cup. He'll go to Kempton in a fortnight and then we'll get together with Sir Alex (Ferguson, owner). He might miss Cheltenham in order to keep him fresh.
"Harry The Viking is in good form and he could run at Doncaster next. He's got a nice weight and could just go there and run tidy.
"Join Together is the one we set our stall out to get ready for the National and he ran a great race in the Becher. He could run at Doncaster next week and is the sort that could run really well."
27 February 2015Divine Bishop on Festival trail
Irish duo set Doncaster poser
Night riding high for Grimthorpe
Golantilla in Ballsbridge bid
Glingerburn facing another battle
Pipe targets Aintree with veterans
Carlito primed for Kelso return
McCoy not planning Festival goodbye
Bridge camp praying for rain
Cook suspended from riding
Safety strikes in Zabeel Mile
Fehily confirms Zarkandar mount
Lieutenant bosses Purcell rivals
Dettori delights on Dubday
Many Clouds goes back to school
Maguire loses appeal
New One at ease for Faugheen clash
Foxrock still in Gold Cup picture
Apache ready to take flight in JLT
26 February 2015Higgins back in business
Cookie poised for April return
Silvi threat unsettles Riches camp
No going concerns at Cheltenham
Fry resigned to Fehily Ruby loss
Trip key to Balder success - King
McLernon gets nod for Holywell
Salsify leads Foxhunter field
Mullins unveils Bumper entry
Curtis hoping for Cross revival
Aurore misses Mares' date
25 February 2015Ton-up for in-form Pipe
Big display from George veteran
Credit to join the Premier league
Jack to duck Grimthorpe date
Tea preparing for National tilt
Geraghty rates Whisper World claims
George retains Module faith
Uramazin ready to go again
Coney team wait on Festival call
Aintree on Ceremony agenda
Silvi is all Gold - Nicholls
Bright Clouds gets serious
Puffin swoops at Leicester
Nicholls: Rheu call tough for Sam
Nicholls suffers Hinterland blow
Own on Cheltenham trail
BHA issues new anti-doping rules
Walsh hoping for a Champagne moment
That ruled out of World bid
24 February 2015Carr revved up for National service
Draycott Festival plans shelved
Knott to appeal three-year ban
Conti at fever pitch for Gold Cup
Fiddes seeking Movie gift
Generous praise for Ransom
No regrets for Doyle
O'Regan rates Stark claims
Fortt wins stable staff gong
Festival aim for Keevil's Legend
Nothing slow about Best's Foot
Duke toppled at Ayr
Serge bids for Festival flyer
Filleule has 'realistic chance'
Henderson: Sprinter 'spot on'
Time beats Henderson with That
Jacob rates Reve chance
Twiston-Davies eager for Rocky ride
Beltor likely for Triumph bid