One For Arthur sets out on a quest to regain his Grand National crown as he takes on three rivals in the Betway Many Clouds Chase back at Aintree on Saturday.
The nine-year-old was last seen when landing the 2017 running of the world’s greatest steeplechase, with a tendon injury sustained last October ruling him out of the entirety of the 2017/18 campaign.
Trainer Lucinda Russell has nursed him back to full fitness, and he will now return to the scene of his greatest triumph – albeit over regulation fences rather than the famous birch of the National course.
She said: “It will be good to get him him back on track. The aim is to get him a bit of match practice, get him back on the course and work towards the Grand National in April.
“The National is the target – we have an idea of what we want to do and he’s a horse that doesn’t take much racing. The plan would be to run him on Saturday and then one run in January before the National, but obviously we will have to see what happens.
“I’m not sure it’s any more nerve-racking with him than any other horse really – we feel the same about them all.”
One For Arthur has been partnered by Derek Fox on his last four outings, including the National, but the rider is currently sidelined following back surgery – leaving Tom Scudamore to deputise.
Russell added: “I’ll be leaving the tactics to Scu (assistant and partner Peter Scudamore) and Tom. Tom schooled him last week, and he’s been here plenty of times before – so it’s not like he’s really an outside rider even.
“It’s desperate for Derek, but he had to do the right thing for himself and we hope he’ll be back soon.”
Scudamore is not too concerned with tactics in the four-runner affair, with One For Arthur’s jumping much more of a focus.
He said: “Tom’s first job will be making sure he doesn’t stand too far off the first fence. The last time he ran was over the National fences, so when he schooled the other day he had a good look.
“Once he’s got him jumping over the first couple of fences, I’d not be too worried about tactics. Derek has dropped him in before, so that wouldn’t be a worry, and we will see what happens.”
Definitly Red won the race last year and defends his crown on the back of a fine victory in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby last month.
However, that Grade Two success means he must concede weight all around.
Trainer Brian Ellison said: “At home he’s been in great form, but obviously he’s got the 6lb penalty to carry this time.”
Double Shuffle also lined up in the Charlie Hall for Tom George, but he got no further than the first fence, marking the first time the King George runner-up has failed to put in a clear round.
George said: “We had been aiming at the King George, but obviously he only made it as far as the first fence in the Charlie Hall and we felt we better give him some match practice.
“He’s in good form. I just hope the ground isn’t too soft.
“Hopefully he’ll run well and then we’ll go back to Kempton.”
The quartet is completed by the Chris Grant-trained Acdc, winner of the Bobby Renton Chase at Wetherby on his seasonal bow but only fourth at Ayr last time out.