Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old is unbeaten in six starts over fences and was a brilliant winner of the Tingle Creek at Sandown on his seasonal reappearance in early December.
He is set to head for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March as a long odds-on favourite, provided there are no hiccups this weekend.
Sprinter Sacre would appear to face a relatively straightforward task, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Sanctuaire the second highest-rated horse in the field.
He was over 19 lengths behind Henderson’s charge in the Tingle Creek and subsequently won the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.
Last year’s Victor Chandler hero Somersby could return to defend his crown for what would be his first outing of the season and first start since joining trainer Mick Channon.
Wishfull Thinking remains an enigmatic character and a difficult horse to catch right, while the other entries – Idarah, Kinkeel, Kumbeshwar, Mad Moose and His Excellency – all have a mountain to climb on official figures.
One notable absentee from the confirmations is Robbie Hennessy’s stable star Rubi Light.
The eight-year-old was a fine second to Sizing Europe in the Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown over the Christmas period but will not be travelling to Ascot after suffering a setback.
Hennessy said: “Unfortunately he’s on the easy list for a couple of days as he’s got a stone bruise, so he can’t go to Ascot or for the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles on Thursday.
“It’s disappointing as we probably would have travelled to Ascot. We’d have enjoyed the trip over and there is good prize-money for second, but it wasn’t to be.
“It’s only a minor thing and he should be back riding out by Thursday, but he’ll miss some crucial work which means he can’t run this week.
“The plan now is to go for the Red Mills Chase at Gowran in February. He’s won that race for the last two years so we’ll go back there.”