Last year’s winner Definitly Red will face a maximum of 11 rivals when he defends his crown in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Brian Ellison’s stable stalwart got the better of the Paul Nicholls-trained Black Corton by two lengths in the West Yorkshire highlight 12 months ago – and the pair look set to renew rivalry on Saturday.
Ellison will be buoyed by the fantastic recent form of his jumping string, with Forest Bihan’s big-race triumph in Sunday’s Old Roan Chase at Aintree the trainer’s eighth winner from his last nine runners under National Hunt rules.
Black Corton – last seen filling the runner-up spot under a big weight in the Galway Plate – is out to provide Nicholls with a fourth Charlie Hall success following the back-to-back wins of See More Business (1999 and 2000) and the victory of Silviniaco Conti (2012).
Nigel Twiston-Davies has not entered the 2017 Charlie Hall hero Bristol De Mai, but could saddle recent Chepstow winner Ballyoptic. The Naunton handler has also won this prestigious event with Tipping Tim (1992), Young Hustler (1994) and Ollie Magern (2005 and 2007).
Warren Greatrex is expected to send star mare La Bague Au Roi from Lambourn, while Jessica Harrington’s Jett could bid to become the first Irish-trained winner since Sackville in 2001.
Aso (Venetia Williams), Atlanta Ablaze (Henry Daly), Double Shuffle (Tom George), Elegant Escape (Colin Tizzard), Molly The Dolly (Dan Skelton), Top Ville Ben (Phil Kirby) and Vinndication (Kim Bailey) are the other contenders.