Don Poli could return from a 657-day absence in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday – provided ground conditions are in his favour.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned nine-year-old struck three times at Grade One level when trained by Willie Mullins, including the RSA Chase at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival.
He joined Gordon Elliott two seasons ago – and while he failed to fire on his first start for his new trainer at Down Royal, he bounced back to finish second in the Christmas Chase and third in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
Don Poli has not been seen in competitive action since the most recent of those outings in February of last year, but he could make his comeback under the steadier of 11st 12lb in Berkshire this weekend.
Gigginstown manager Eddie O’Leary said: “If the ground is right that’s the plan (to run at Newbury), but he does need it plenty soft because he’s coming back from a leg (injury).
“He’s very ground dependent following his injury, but if the ground is soft then the plan is to go.”
Elliott and Gigginstown have a second potential runner in Monbeg Notorious, who rounded off last season by chasing home stablemate The Storyteller at the Punchestown Festival.
Asked if he could join Don Poli at Newbury, O’Leary added: “That would be Gordon’s call, but he needs soft ground as well.”
Don Poli heads the weights alongside the Mullins-trained Kemboy, after 23 horses stood their ground for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Monday’s confirmation stage.
After rounding off last season with a handicap success at the Punchestown Festival, Kemboy made a successful reappearance in the Clonmel Oil Chase, for which he picked up a penalty.
Having seen Be My Royal disqualified in 2002, Mullins belatedly won the race formerly known as the Hennessy Gold Cup for the first time 12 months ago with Total Recall, who was the first Irish-trained winner since 1980.
Total Recall could defend his crown – while Mullins has also left in Al Boum Photo, Rathvinden, Invitation Only, Up For Review and Isleofhopendreams. The Closutton handler has not confirmed Pairofbrowneyes.
Colin Tizzard’s Elegant Escape propelled himself to the head of ante-post lists with a comeback victory at Sandown earlier this month – for which he will carry a 4lb penalty in Berkshire this weekend.
Along with Elegant Escape, leading contenders for the home team include the Tom Lacey-trained Thomas Patrick – who was just half a length behind the Tizzard runner at Sandown – Anthony Honeyball’s consistent mare Ms Parfois and Dingo Dollar from Alan King’s yard.
Paul Nicholls, who won the race twice as a jockey aboard Broadheath (1986) and Playschool (1987) – and three times as a trainer with Strong Flow (2003) and dual winner Denman (2007 and 2009) – is looking forward to saddling Charlie Hall Chase runner-up Black Corton.
He said: “He’s fit and well and – and I’m quite surprised he’s a 25-1 shot, considering we beat Elegant Escape in a Grade One at Kempton and then were only just beaten by him at Newbury giving weight away.
“He probably ran a career-best in the Charlie Hall at the weights, and that puts him in the mix as a lively outsider.
“I’m not saying he is going to win ,because he is not a Denman or a Kauto Star, but he is a tough, genuine horse that has got a good each-way chance.
“Bryony (Frost) will ride him on Saturday again.”
Alan King will send Dingo Dollars into battle.
He blew away any cobwebs when finishing fourth over hurdles at Newbury earlier in the month.
King said: “He seems very well and he had a school over fences last Thursday, and that was very good.
“I’ve been happy with him since Newbury.”
Nicky Henderson’s Terrefort, who was ante-post favourite before finishing a disappointing last of four behind Elegant Escape and Thomas Patrick at Sandown, has been taken out.