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."
20 April 2015McCoy available for Gold runners
Toes points in right direction
Ascot not Newmarket for Ward pair
Bourke facing BHA panel
Maude hails departing McCoy
Options open for Gosden's Ball
Mr Mole lined up for AP race
Own at summit for Gold rush
Judge up for the Cup
Kurland heads direct to Ascot
Lieutenant in line for Punchestown
Arod considered for Lockinge
Stobart sponsors championships
Strath to burn a trail at Ascot
Gosden remembers 'lovely' Kate
Russell praise for 'brave' Forrit
O'Brien fails alcohol test
Flight grounds Gladness rivals
Hannon optimistic for Classics
York aim for Lucky Kristale
Perfect could try longer trip
Dettori has high hopes for Osaila
Cox upbeat despite Bear setback
Gosden sets sights on Sandown
19 April 2015Mogol finished for season
Cops team mull chase option
Hootenanny shines at Keeneland
Foxrock inquiry hears evidence
Intilaaq picks up Derby quotes
Parrott hails Prince among men
Muhaarar shakes up Classic picture
Cheltenian show just Champion
Redstart shocks Tiggy and co
Spring back with a bang
18 April 2015Harrington filly takes Navan prize
Ayaar another for in-form Dettori
Gamble pays off for Lee
Ground scuppers favourite Oscar
Hatch suffers Ayr misfortune
Mullins - Aintree fallers fine
Victory giving off right signs
Milborough team eye dream result
Harrington fined at Tipperary
Balding happy with Elm spin
Junior continues on upgrade
Newmarket target for Secret
Spring back into action
Gosden has Oaks in mind for Star
Sruthan chasing Curragh repeat
'Relaxed' Tiggy raring to go
17 April 2015Forrit poised to be National hero
Irving leads Champion charge
Belardo bids for Greenham glory
Days seeking further Success
No prep plans for Malabar
McCoy's Ayr mount withdrawn
Benoist in Al Shaqab link
No Cheltenham fairytale for McCoy
Navy sinks Sefton field
Kool result for Hannon
Cape clears away to score
Fleet-footed Astaire takes Abernant
Dutch delight for Hills
Ooty Hill returns at Newbury
Stellar field declared for Greenham