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."
2 September 2014Demuro booked for Moon Arc prep
Chicquita nears return
Murphy excited by Purse
Surprise Matron aim for Tapestry
Maguire nearing racecourse return
Estimate among bumper Cup entry
Maguire hails 'fantastic' Peddlers
Balding staying grounded with Park
Culloty joins Leger Legends
Regard among September possibles
Cox takes Haydock plunge with Love
Paddy gunning for Chepstow
Athenian has sales date
No hurry for Cape call
Mirza on Abbaye trail
1 September 2014McCain salutes retiring Peddlers
Seven Towcester meetings go to ARC
Further checks for Condon
Due set to miss Sprint date
Condon 'stable' after Cork fall
Queen rules supreme for Smith
River eases to debut success
Carla tops it up to four
Atzeni strikes on Cappella
Ocean team want Haydock rain
Big time beckons for Orange
Palmer aims high with Aktabantay
Hills ponders Dutch gameplan
31 August 2014Atzeni strikes on Cappella
Imminent return Likely
Logic on comeback trail
Dan edges closer to Mile high
Keane error costly for Unrequited
Notarfbad makes all in Mildmay
Orange enjoys Big win
Fabre strikes with Fintry
Akta in late Solario swoop
Icon takes starring role
Pearl fires home in Bullet
Shortall suffers injury setback
Tent team consider chasing
30 August 2014Keane error costly for Unrequited
Shepherd's sent to Tower
Time will tell for Charlton
Stack filly Alive to chance
Sansevero sent to Tower
Palmer plots Solario success
Fabre has high hopes for Fintry
Belardo team keen on Champagne
Rigueur targets Chester consolation
Native in hunt for Bullet gains
Arc still target for Taghrooda