Mick Channon’s former Cheltenham Festival winner Mister Whitaker tops 21 remaining contenders for the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.
After Monday’s confirmation stage, Mister Whitaker is at the head of the weights with 11st 12lb for the Listed feature over almost three miles.
Also entered in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on the same day, the 2018 Close Brothers hero will have to concede 2lb and upwards if he takes up his weekend engagement on Town Moor, with Nicky Henderson’s ante-post favourite and Marsh Hurdle runner-up L’Ami Serge second in the list.
Henderson has two other possibles, in Ok Corral and the novice Burbank.
Nigel Twiston-Davies, successful last year with Go Conquer, has Count Meribel in the mix this time.
Like Henderson, Alan King has three still in contention – course regular Dingo Dollar, the well-fancied Azzerti and Good Man Pat.
Nicky Richards and Dan Skelton are both potentially double-handed.
Chidswell, who won last year’s Grimthorpe Handicap Chase from Dingo Dollar over an extra two furlongs on Town Moor, and the mare My Old Gold may represent the in-form Cumbrian trainer.
Skelton’s hopes are Cobra De Mai and, nearer the foot of the weights, Shannon Bridge.
Sametegal is Paul Nicholls’ sole confirmation, from the 11-time champion trainer’s six initial entries.
Others of note still in the equation for Doncaster’s historic prize are Venetia Williams’ Calipto and Sue Smith’s recent Haydock winner Ravenhill Road.
Phil Kirby’s brilliantly-adaptable Lady Buttons may return to Town Moor to defend her crown in the Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle, one of three Grade Two races on the classy card.
Lady Buttons, equally at home over hurdles or fences, was last in action when winning a thrilling edition of the Yorkshire Silver Vase Mares’ Chase at the same course in late December.
She is one of eight entries, with Henderson novice Floressa – a Newbury Listed winner in November – and last year’s third Irish Roe among the other likely contenders.
The Napoleons Casino & Restaurant Owlerton Sheffield Lightning Novices’ Chase has a potential field of seven – including Al Dancer, for Twiston-Davies, Henderson’s Mister Fisher and Fanion D’Estruval from Williams’ Herefordshire yard.
There are 11 entries in the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle, in which Skelton’s unbeaten Boss Man Fred and Jamie Snowden’s Thomas Macdonagh may both seek four-timers this season.