The six-year-old was twice a winner as a novice last term and has been placed for trainer Paul Nicholls on both outings this campaign.
Most recently seen when a narrow second at Haydock in November, this competitive handicap has been the target since.
Nicholls’ assistant Dan Skelton said: “Black Thunder finished quite quickly at Haydock last time and this race has been the intention for a while.” He will have to shoulder second top-weight of 11st 5lb after stablemate Brampour did not feature among the 18 declarations.
Nicky Henderson’s Bear’s Affair tops the list on 11st 12lb, while the Charlie Longsdon-trained Loose Chips is also to the fore on 11st.
The seven-year-old is twice a course-and-distance winner already this term but his Chipping Norton handler is anticipating a hard assignment as his charge has gone up a total of 20lb.
He said: “I think he has possibly been treated more harshly than (five-time-winning stablemate) Pete The Feat as he’s gone up 20lb for winning two races.
“He’s now off a higher mark in a very competitive handicap so it will be a tough task for him, but you’ve got to run in these better races.
“He’s in good form and on a roll at the moment.
“He can be a bit of a loose cannon at times but he seems to love it at Kempton.”
Buck Magic arrives on the back of a win at Cheltenham in November and will be having just his sixth start over hurdles, with trainer Neil Mulholland already looking forward to pitching him over fences. “The horse absolutely hated the ground at Cheltenham and didn’t jump that great, either, but he still won,” he said. “Hopefully this good, drying weather will continue as he’ll be a better horse on better ground.
“He did very well to win at Cheltenham, all things considered, and he’s a horse that should have a big future as a chaser.”
The Warren Greatrex-trained Oscar Prairie brings some interesting form to the table after chasing home Gevrey Chambertin at Wincanton last time.
The winner is rated as a possible Cheltenham Festival contender and Greatrex has booked 7lb claimer Thomas Garner to ease his burden further.
“We rode him with different tactics at Wincanton, he has been prominent but he was ridden with more restraint last time and it seemed to work,” said Greatrex.
“The handicapper hasn’t put him up, and I’m claiming off him again as the jockey has won on him and rode him last time.
“He didn’t have much of a race against Gevrey Chambertin as he only got competitive in the straight, and there’s no doubt he has the ability.
“He’s capable of running a hell of a race, and I hope he does as I also own him.”
Araldur is back over hurdles this term after a flirtation with fences.
The nine-year-old looked a top chasing prospect when winning a Grade Two back in 2008 but things have not gone entirely to plan since then.
He bounced back to form with victory at Sandown last month, though, and King believes he may improve again.
“Araldur had been off nine months before producing a brave performance to make a winning comeback in what was a very competitive handicap at Sandown last time, and, though he is now 7lb higher, we hope that he might improve for that first run back,” he told www.alankingracing.co.uk.
The Barbury Castle handler has a second string to his bow in outsider Secret Edge, who finished a distance behind Loose Chips last time, but will be tried in blinkers.
“Secret Edge has been disappointing this season, but the handicapper has dropped him 12lb and we are trying him in blinkers,” King added.
“He schooled in them earlier in the week, and we hope they might do the trick, while Peter Hatton’s 7lb claim also helps.”
Bear’s Affair will have the assistant of Jerry McGrath in the saddle, with the claimer taking a useful 5lb off his back.
The decision to claim on Bear’s Affair means stable jockey Barry Geraghty will be aboard Oscara Dara, who reverts to hurdles after being beaten at odds-on on his fencing debut.
Henderson said: “At the backend of last year, he (Bear’s Affair) won a hurdle race and he got a huge thump (in the handicap) then, then he went back to Aintree and got another 12lb, when Jerry rode him.
“I had a long chat with Barry and the owners and it just seemed (a good idea) if you swapped Jerry for Barry, and I’ve got Oscara Dara in there who Barry knows well.
“If you switch Barry for Jerry, you’re effectively putting him up 17lb instead of 12lb, if you take it literally.
“Jerry knows him well and 11st 12lb seemed a big weight so it seemed sensible to do it that way round.
“Oscara Dara jumped as well as I hoped he would at Plumpton on his only start over fences. He’s fit and well and we felt like having a decent crack at a race like this while he is well in himself. I would like to go back over fences but it’s a very good prize and it seemed a pity not to have a crack at it.”