Clive Smith’s dual Queen Mother Champion Chase hero may have failed in the Cheltenham showpiece last March but he has been in tremendous form this season, winning both his starts.
His trainer Paul Nicholls has a second string to his bow in Tchico Polos.
Somersby is not a definite runner, according to his trainer Henrietta Knight. His next outing looks to be a choice between the Grade 1 or a graduation chase at Kempton on February 11.
Master Minded took this race two years ago and the runner-up that day, Petit Robin, is also in the line-up, having finished second to his old rival at Cheltenham last month.
Nicky Henderson has also left in Mad Max, while a quality entry also includes Ferdy Murphy’s Champion Chase third Kalahari King, the Nick Williams-trained Gauvain, and I’m So Lucky from the David Pipe stable.
Completing the nine is the Emma Lavelle-trained Crack Away Jack, who has been off the track since December 2009. However, Crack Away Jack will have one more bit of work and a couple of schooling sessions before Lavelle decides if he runs.
Smith has been delighted with Master Minded’s form so far this season, and is hoping the eight-year-old’s good run can continue.
“We are looking forward to it,” said the owner. “He’s had an interrupted season this season as opposed to last year when he appeared to have that cracked rib just before Christmas then we had him off training for a month.
“Although he raced well enough in the Game Sprit, he obviously didn’t quite
get back to his best, but he seems pretty good this year. We’ll see how he goes.”