The nine-year-old landed the race in 2012 and 2014 and is a short-priced favourite to complete the treble.
Silviniaco Conti claimed a second successive King George VI Chase win following last year’s Haydock verdict, but he again disappointed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup before bouncing back to form with a Grade One win at Aintree.
Returned to hurdles for his return this term, the Dom Alco gelding finished second to Brother Tedd at Kempton earlier this month and Nicholls believes that was the perfect springboard for the Grade One on Merseyside.
He said: “He ran very well at Kempton and there was no way he was going to win carrying 11st 12lb with five flights of hurdles in front of him.
“He was not far forwards enough to run in the Charlie Hall Chase (at Wetherby last month) but he has improved enormously for the run and that is that best thing we ever did running him at Kempton.
“He’s not missed a beat since running there and the soft ground and flat track at Haydock is made for him.”
There were just seven horses remaining following the confirmation stage.
As well as Silviniaco Conti, the other previous winner in the line-up is 2013 scorer Cue Card, who returned to form with a convincing victory over Dynaste in the Charlie Hall on his reappearance.
The David Pipe-trained Dynaste, placed in this race for the last two years, stands his ground as he looks to make it third-time lucky.
He could be joined by stablemate Ballynagour, who was third in the Charlie Hall.
Menorah, second last year, has been left in for now by his trainer Philip Hobbs, as has the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Holywell, who was fifth in the Charlie Hall on his first run since April.
Completing the seven possibles is 2014 RSA Chase winner O’Faolains Boy, who has been sidelined since April last year.
All four Irish entries — Clarcam, Don Cossack, Road To Riches and Wounded Warrior — were taken out at the latest acceptance stage.
Haydock clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright is “sure” the big Betfair Chase will go ahead.
The ground at the Merseyside circuit is currently soft after 33 millimetres of rainfall since Thursday.
But a forecast of “extremely wet” weather — Haydock could get up to another 40mm of further rainfall — increased speculation the fixture may be defeated by the elements.
Tellwright warned conditions will be testing, but is adamant the meeting will go ahead.
He said: “I am sure the meeting will be on and I am sure the ground will be heavy.
“This is the first jumps meeting for us this season and there is likely to be rain right up to the last minute, and those horses who like heavy will get through it.”
Meanwhile, Nicholls believes the Hennessy Gold Cup could be the best opportunity Saphir Du Rheu has of toppling Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree.
With both horses remaining on course to clash in the Grade Three contest at Newbury later this month, the Ditcheat handler feels the 9lb Saphir Du Rheu receives from the Mark Bradstock trained eight-year-old will be crucial to his chances.
Having claimed an impressive win in the Grade One Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April, Saphir Du Rheu made a successful return to action this month when easily casting aside The Young Master at Carlisle.
Nicholls said: “He has come out of that really well. He got back at 2am and ate all his food up and has not stopped eating since.
“He (Coneygree) was awesome the other day. He is a Gold Cup winner so you don’t have to say any more about him and he is going to be hard to beat whatever.
“We are getting a handy 9lb off. If we are ever going to have a chance to beat him, then 9lb is going to be handy. It will be an interesting race.”