Balder Succes will face nine rivals when he bids to justify favouritism in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on Saturday.
With star two-milers Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy both on the sidelines, the way is clear for one of the younger brigade to lay down an early marker in the two-mile division and Balder Succes holds strong claims for Alan King.
The six-year-old struck at Grade One level as a novice at Aintree in the spring and with regular partner
comes in for the plum ride.
Balder Succes has had to make do with minor honours on his last couple of starts and the horse that was victorious on both occasions, the Tom George-trained God’s Own, is also a major contender for this weekend’s feature event.
A shock winner at the Punchestown Festival in the spring, God’s Own proved that effort was no fluke when making a successful return in last month’s Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter.
He will have to raise his game on Saturday, however, with Balder Succes considerably better off at the weights.
In Sprinter Sacre's absence, Nicky Henderson relies on Oscar Whisky, who ran a perfectly respectable fourth in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month. Paul Nicholls, who has won this race with the likes of Kauto Star, Master Minded and Twist Magic in the past, is represented by Dodging Bullets and Hinterland, who will be ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies and Noel Fehily respectively.
The Mick Channon-trained Somersby disappointed on his return at Exeter, but ran a better race when runner-up at Ascot last time and has the assistance of Tony McCoy for his latest assignment.