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."
31 October 2014Lady proves a champ
Dettori works Breeders' Cup magic
Day to remember for Ellison
Johnson remains under observation
Conti chasing second Charlie Hall
Terror scares Newmarket rivals
Filleule faces Champion test
Terror scares off Newmarket rivals
Sgt far from Reckless at Uttoxeter
Little King wears Down Royal crown
Nicholls goes on Charm offensive
Fishers angling for Wetherby prize
Lavelle star Bec in business
Weld out to break new ground
Osborne ready to 'roll the dice'
Dank bids to sign off on a high
Turf glory in sight for Telescope
Red Ed upbeat about Cadeaux
Aktabantay out of Breeders' Cup
Tearless secures Good Friday ticket
Overnight stay for Johnson
Crawford banks on Izzini progress
Toast could make Spencer think
Road charts route to Royal riches
Grece excels at Saint-Cloud
Hawk given Greatwood option
Hannon: Early speed key for Osaila
30 October 2014Tearless takes Lingfield honours
Johnson taken to hospital
Royal summons for Apache
Bowe takes aim at WKD bullseye
Hootenanny 'smoking' for BC mission
Avenue roads lead to Newmarket
Shu to be kept busy
Scu sweet on Sensation Ascot raid
Murtagh succumbs to Cup charms
Dandino to stay in Australia
Glance denied Mackinnon defence
Bailey ace rules Supreme at Taunton
O'Brien hit by Magician blow
Diablo in big-race picture
Buckley raises Toast to Osborne
Pastille seeking four-timer
Conti all set for Charlie Hall
Barnes out to storm Saint-Cloud
Williams issues Buywise warning
Lynam reveals Slade stalls fears
29 October 2014Lame Magician out of Breeders' Cup
Diablo in big-race picture
Mullins enters strong Hennessy team
Damaged hock behind Estid reverse
Eckhart team rocked by injury blow
Hunt Ball makes Power play
Morgiana a T bone of contention
Kirby ponders Buttons French raid
Glance camp turn to Williams
Wohler trusts 'professional' Moore
Red alert to Cup challenge
Head targets more Mile glory
Mile hope Toronado in 'great form'
Telescope camp banking on Moore
Twiston-Davies link excites Moore
Flying third to Bob on hurdling bow
Harden to test top staying waters
Godolphin take share in Belardo
Mullins has big guns at Down Royal
Annacotty set for Kempton return
Powell and Bradley cleared
28 October 2014Fingal camp on weather watch
More injury woe for Popham
Dickin unveils Thomas gameplan
Power stalls in Flemington spin
Toast drawn nine in BC Classic
My Ambivalent passed fit by vets
Harry out to bring House down
Three and easy for ton-up Hanagan
Wood carves out Galway verdict
More Of That in Wetherby frame
Big guns confirmed for Charlie Hall
Byron pencilled in for Far East