Sue Smith’s veteran Mister McGoldrick heads a maximum field of 20 for the first major handicap of Britain's National Hunt season, the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
The 11-year-old landed the Racing Post Plate on his last start at Prestbury Park, springing a 66-1 surprise in the process.
All the major contenders have stood their ground apart from Nicky Henderson’s Jack The Giant, although the trainer still has Barbers Shop and Fleet Street in the line-up.
Paul Nicholls, who has never won the race in all its different disguises, has Turko and ante-post favourite Silverburn.
Il Duce, second to L’Antartique 12 months ago, bids to go one better for Alan King, who also saddles the vastly improved Ouzbeck.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has the well-fancied Imperial Commander and Patman du Charmil, David Pipe has the French import Piraya and 2006 runner-up Vodka Bleu while Philip Hobbs saddles Private Be.
Ashley Brook, Don’t Push It, Bible Lord and Maljimar are other strong contenders. Sir Bathwick is the sole reserve runner for the race.
Champion trainer Nicholls is hoping a breathing operation has the same effect on Silverburn as it has had on so many of his stable companions.
“I’m very pleased with him, I schooled him yesterday morning and he jumped well, he always has done. I’m glad to see all the rain because he loves cut in the ground – I’m very happy with him,” said Nicholls.
“He was a bit unfurnished last year but I’m hoping to get the same result we had with Nevada Royale because he has always struggled a little bit with his breathing.
“At the end of last season I said to Paul Green (owner), if we want to go forward we have to give him a breathing operation and now he doesn’t make any noise at all, so hopefully that will be a big plus and there might be some improvement in him.
“Turko is no back number but he is on a handicap mark that makes life very tough and if the going was very testing, that would help him.
“I think he has it all to do at the weights to be honest but I’m hoping Silverburn has a few pounds in hand but we’ll see,” he told At The Races.
Three Mirrors was 12th behind his stable companion L'Antartique in this race 12 months ago and gets another chance after trainer Ferdy Murphy has had assurances the ground is not too soft.
“We would have been a bit happier if the ground was a bit faster. We were having second thoughts about it but I’ve spoken to Simon (Claisse) this morning and it’s drying out down there,” said the West Witton-based handler.
“So as long they don’t get too much rain I’ll be happy.
“He’s done plenty of work and had a mile six racecourse gallop. He did it very well that day and it’s brought him along nicely.
“It’s a big ask for him but at the same time we’re happy enough with him.”