The Philip Hobbs-trained Greatwood Hurdle winner is at the head of the pile following the defection of Zamdy Man, who ran at Cheltenham at the weekend.
The five-year-old is third-favourite with the sponsors at 8-1 together with the Willie Mullins-trained Clondaw Warrior, who was third in the Greatwood. Sign Of A Victory is clear market leader at 5-1.
Hobbs said: “I’m glad it’s been dry recently as the better the ground the better his chance.
“We thought about running him in the Relkeel at Cheltenham but he’d have been giving weight to horses rated higher than him so it just made no sense.”
Hobbs also has Exeter regular Hello George in the valuable handicap hurdle, for which there are 22 horses remaining.
Sign Of A Victory, trained by Nicky Henderson, has been earmarked for this race since winning the William Hill Handicap Hurdle at Ascot over six weeks ago.
The Seven Barrows handler has a second possible in Cool Macavity but he has taken out his other entries, including recent Sandown scorer Snake Eyes, while John Ferguson is double-handed with Ruacana and Pine Creek.
Activial is also a major player for the Harry Fry operation, and an ante-post mover with the sponsors.
David Williams of Ladbrokes said: “Activial was 12-1 over the weekend but is now half that price and a considerable gamble has developed on the Harry Fry-trained horse. We’ve not seen him since April but he is unexposed and is clearly fancied to rediscover the best of his novice form of last term and make a mockery of his mark of 137.”
In addition to Clondaw Warrior, there is a strong Irish representation as Gordon Elliott could saddle Bayan and Shadow Catcher, with Tony Martin’s Pyromaniac and Sea Beat from Arthur Moore’s stable the other Irish acceptors.
Coral have cut Sign Of A Victory to 5-1 favourite from 6-1.
Spokesman John Hill said: “Sign Of A Victory was very impressive at Ascot when he scored there on his seasonal reappearance last month.
“Connections chose against running him in the Greatwood with The Ladbroke in mind and he has been well backed to follow up his recent course and distance success there.”
David Pipe has two interesting contenders in Swing Bowler and Balgarry, who has not beensighted for over 700 days.
“Swing Bowler is a lovely, tough consistent mare who has run well in many of the top handicap hurdles and fully deserves to win one, while Balgarry looked like a high class recruit for the stable when last seen two and a half years ago,” said Pipe on his website.
“He has pleased us at home and while it is a big ask on his first start since March 2012, he is fully deserving of his place in the ultra-competitive line-up.”
David Arbuthnot intends not to over-face Starluck after the popular grey took a handicap hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday.
The Dorking handler will not ask the nine-year-old to run in the big-field handicaps and may send him back over fences at some stage.
“He’s obviously getting on a bit in age, but he won off 134 so to be rated that he’s still a decent horse,” said Arbuthnot.
“I’ll wait and see what the handicapper does. He has another hurdle option or we could send him back chasing.
“If he’s reassessed within 5lb there is another hurdle I’d like to go for.
“With him now at his age I don’t want to go for these massively competitive handicaps with a lot of runners especially as he’s hold-up horse and it’s a very hard job.
“He’s much happier with eight to 12 runners rather than 22 runners.
“I’m looking to keep him out of the big handicap hurdles at the moment and see where we are. He won his first novice chase then he got beat at Sandown and then he went for a Grade One to Aintree. He has the scope to jump but he’s not a big horse.
“He just lost his nerve. He’s been schooling very well so as long as he’s not over-faced I think it’s worth trying again.”
Puffin Billy has two options at Ascot later this week as Oliver Sherwood weighs up the best opportunity for his six-year-old.
He could run in either the Grade Two Mitie Novices’ Chase on Friday or take on more experienced horses in the David Johnson Shawbrook Bank Graduation Chase 24 hours later.
The deciding factor could be the availability of stable jockey Leighton Aspell, who is banned on Friday.
“God willing, he’ll run in one or the other,” said Sherwood.
“The thing is, Leighton is banned on Friday and that will come into play.
“We also put him in the graduation chase on Saturday and I know that means taking on more experienced horses, but we’ll just weight a few things up.
“The graduation chase is over two-mile-five but I’ve no worries about the trip, he’s bred to get it and he’ll get three miles in time, in my eyes.”
Oliver Sherwood’s Global Power will run in the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow on December 27, if he makes the cut. Currently down at number 36 on the list of entries, that could all change if Kim Bailey decides not to run Harry Topper as the weights would rise 9lb, bringing Global Power into the handicap proper.
The eight-year-old went down narrowly in a decent race at Fontwell last week, signalling a return to his best form.
Sherwood said: “Global Power can be tricky, and you have to put him in front late as he sometimes thinks he’s done enough when he hits the front.
“It was nice to see him return to the form he was showing last season and if he gets in he’ll run in the Welsh National.More came out than I thought might at the last stage so he has a better chance of getting in than this time last week.