Paul Barber’s horse has already equalled two chasing legends, Mandarin (1957 and 1961) and Arkle (1964 and 1965), with victories in this prestigious staying handicap in 2007 and 2009.
Now he bids to do what those horses failed to achieve and make it a treble.
As in his previous two victories, ‘The Tank’ is burdened with top weight of 11st 12lb.
“He’s been working better than he’s ever done before, he’s more enthusiastic,” said Nicholls.
“He’s never been a great workhorse, but he’s in really good form.”
The Ditcheat handler has four others as he goes for a fourth training success in the prestigious staying handicap chase.
“Neptune Collonges’ last run was in the Gold Cup over 18 months ago. He’s done loads of work but when I look at him, I keep thinking he’s a bit burly and a run will bring him on,” Nicholls went on.
“Taranis had been off for well over two years when he won the Argento Chase at Cheltenham. He had an unrelated injury after that which he meant he missed the Gold Cup, but he’s on song now. He’s fit and well and ready.
“He’s a horse I thought would go well in a Hennessy off a light weight. Hopefully he’s got a chance.
“Niche Market fell first time out at Wincanton. He’s done a lot of schooling since and he was third in the race last year.
“He’s a bit out of the handicap so has it all to do, but hopefully he’ll run a nice race.
“The Tother One’s form is all right. If you look at Nacarat’s run on Saturday (at Haydock), he ran really well in the Charlie Hall. He’s got a light weight.”
Diamond Harry carries the colours of the Paul Duffy Diamond Partnership and connections of the Nick Williams-trained gelding are hopeful of a good run from the second-season chaser.
“He’s well and we’re hopeful, but a lot will depend on how the race unfolds,” said Duffy.
“He always runs well fresh and we’ve been pleased with his preparation.
“We just hope he gets the run of the race and comes back safe and sound. That’s the main thing and if he’s in the first three we’ll be delighted. Good to soft ground will be all right for him.”
Noel Meade reports to Pandorama to be in tip-top condition as the seven-year-old has his first race for 11 months.
The County Meath trainer had hoped to get a prep run into his contender at Down Royal three weeks ago, but the horse was withdrawn after he was found to be bleeding at the start.
“It would have been great if we could have got a run into him when you are going for a race like this, but it wasn’t to be and there’s nothing we can do about that. He’s as good as we can have him,” said Meade.
Nicky Henderson took this prize in 2005 with Trabolgan for Trevor Hemmings and saddles Burton Port for the same owner.
“He’s fully entitled to be in here. Second-season novices have a good record in the race — Trabolgan was when he won it — so he’s got a very realistic chance,” said the Seven Barrows trainer, who also saddles Barbers Shop for The Queen.
“Barbers Shop always wears cheekpieces and we wanted to put something on him to make him concentrate better,” added Henderson.
“We schooled him in blinkers (on Thursday) and he’s going to wear them.”