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."
22 July 2014Queen's Estimate tests positive
Moonlight shines at Musselburgh
Taghrooda could go off favourite
Signal pointed at Phoenix
Course specialist in Ascot return
Bary plots Arc route for Spiritjim
Charlton weighs up Kazeem options
Strangeway targets Galway riches
Grade One status for Mares' event
Halford retains Certerach faith
Varian seeking York glory
HRI unveil 2015 plans
Buick on Ascot weather watch
High hopes for Odeliz
Minella to take Plate test
Scudamore banned for course blunder
Toscanini team mull options
Faydhan team in no rush
Fast Kaar given Dewhurst target
Pique Sous confirmed for Galway
Hannon team cool on Nunthorpe bid
Channon excited by Amralah progress
Haggas expects Hanagan to ride Tag
21 July 2014Ebor the Clever choice for Cookie
Deauville mission for Fiesolana
Chicquita in Yorkshire Oaks frame
Magical Moore shines again
Kool result for Hannon
Guest considers Memory options
Euro stays with Botti
Ascot on Moohaarib agenda
Injury blow for Boistron team
Encke set for Glorious return
No hurry for Tiggy target
No rush for East aim
20 July 2014Sous heads Galway Hurdle betting
McCoy savours overtaking Pipe
Bracelet glitters in Irish Oaks
Whittington pounces in Anglesey
Music masters Hackwood rivals
Dazzling Tiggy in Nunthorpe frame
Gutsy Ansgar makes all
India too hot in Curragh opener
Fourth for Kazeem on return
Kosika crushes Newbury rivals
19 July 2014Bracelet glitters in Irish Oaks
It's a day to remember for McCoy
It's a Rasen Gimme for McCoy
Super-sonic display from Tiggy
Bay bounds clear for Summer spoils
Sunshine at last at Rasen
Storms force Market Rasen delay
Lady bids to bow out on a high
Ansgar takes Minstrel chance
Newsletter out to deliver
Cox pair take Super challenge
Kazeem on the comeback trail
Tennant sitting on big Rasen prize
Newland seeks easy Pickens at Rasen
Realtra camp have Sprint concern
Tarfasha team hopeful of home win