Maurice Barnes' Pas Trop Tard treads some familiar territory for the Cumbrian trainer in Thursday's BetVictor Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso, providing the meeting passes a 7.30am precautionary inspection.
Just a handful will face the starter for one of the highlights of the season at the Borders course, with the removal of runners by Nicky Henderson, who won the race last year with Simonsig, leaving northern trainers to fight it out.
Pas Trop Tard did not take to hurdling immediately but has really found his feet this season and has won four of his last five starts. The most recent was when coasting 13 lengths clear in a handicap at Ayr on January 3.
Barnes rode the only Scottish winner of the Grand National on Rubstic in 1979 and is based near Brampton. His wife Anne said: "We won the race in 1999 with Caulker, a lovely chestnut who used to run from the front, and he went on to win the Tote Gold Trophy Trial at Ayr for Scott Taylor.
"It's nice to have a horse to fly the flag as we're not a big yard. We thought about going to Cheltenham but I think it's a big ask. He went up 13lb for winning at Ayr and we'll just see how he gets on here."
Barnes paid tribute to stable jockey Michael McAlister, who has been aboard the six-year-old throughout his winning run.
She said: "The penny seems to have dropped with the horse and he gets on so well with Michael. We're so pleased Michael has got the chance on a nice horse. He's not a big horse and we have to space out his races, but it's nice to have a shot at a good race."
Donald McCain, who won the Morebattle the previous year with Peddlers Cross, runs smart handicapper Any Given Day, who showed little on his reappearance at Newbury.
Jimmy Moffatt has taken the trouble to hire Tony McCoy for Morning Royalty, who arrived from the Willie Mullins yard this season and won twice at Carlisle before Christmas. He ran respectably again on his reappearance at Catterick a fortnight ago.
"AP has never actually ridden for me before, but he has some nice rides on the day and let's hope we're good enough for him. I was very pleased with the run the other day, where he was giving away lumps of weight and he took the race well," said Moffatt.
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