The Worlds End bids to claim his third win from four starts this season in the Unibet Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock.
Tom George’s charge made a flying start to the campaign when landing the Grade Two West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby, before having to make do with minor honours in third behind star stayer Paisley Park and Thistlecrack in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
Following the late defection of Paisley Park, The Worlds End made the most of what looked an excellent opportunity to strike Grade One gold at Ascot in December – seeing off the strong-travelling L’Ami Serge in the Marsh Hurdle.
George is optimistic his charge will be able to add to his tally this weekend, before a likely rematch with Paisley Park in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
“He’s in good form,” said the Cotswolds trainer.
“He’s had a good preparation since his last race, and it looks a good stepping-stone for him.
“He’s had a very good season already. He’s won a Grade One and a Grade Two – and anything he does from this point is a bonus, to be honest.
“He seems to be liking heavy ground as he’s getting older, so everything look to be in his favour.
“There’s no Paisley Park to worry about, which is good!”
The Worlds End must concede 6lb to each of his five rivals on Merseyside, including Warren Greatrex’s Emitom.
Unbeaten in his first five starts before chasing home Champ in a Grade One at Aintree, the six-year-old was a disappointing last of six on his return from a lengthy absence in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
Greatrex is confident of much improved display on Saturday, though.
He said: “I was disappointed with his return to action at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, but I put it down to him being rusty after an injury lay-off.
“He’s in tip-top order now and has done plenty of schooling. His work has been very, very good – and we left him in the Stayers’ Hurdle this week.
“It’s a big day for him at Haydock, but I would expect a much better run.”
Clyne (Evan Williams), Donna’s Diamond (Chris Grant), One Night In Milan (Keith Dalgleish) and West Approach (Colin Tizzard) complete the line-up.
Grade Two honours are also up for grabs in the Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle, in which David Pipe’s Ramses De Teillee is the potential star attraction.
The grey also had the option of running in the Unibet Grand National Trial on the same card, but connections have elected to stick to the smaller obstacles en route to a possible appearance in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham.
Pipe said: “We didn’t really want to give him a slog over three and a half miles over fences, so we decided to stay down the hurdle route for now.
“He’s won well on his last couple of runs over hurdles, and seems in very good form. We all know he likes testing conditions, so hopefully he’ll run well.
“We’ll see how he performs this weekend before deciding whether to aim for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham.”
Ramses De Teillee may not have things all his own way, however – with Anthony Honeyball’s Jepeck, the Philip Hobbs-trained Kalooki and Olly Murphy’s pair of Overthetop and Port Of Mars all declared off the back of victories.
Murphy said: “Both horses are progressing well. Port Of Mars will love the testing conditions, and I thought he was impressive at Chepstow the last day.
“Overthetop wasn’t right when he ran at Sandown in December, but he bounced back well to win at Newcastle, probably beating a decent enough horse into second (Prince Kayf).
“Both horses go there with each-way chances on Saturday.”
Gary Moore’s Goshen is a notable defector from the Unibet Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle. In his absence, French raider Rockadenn will be well fancied to continue his winning streak at the chief expense of the Paul Nicholls-trained Sir Psycho.
Former staying star Unowhatimeanharry is at the head of the weights for the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle. His rivals include last year’s winner Sykes, Kilbricken Storm, the in-form Young Bull and Greatrex’s Portrush Ted.