Nicky Henderson is triple-handed in his bid for a sixth victory in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Sunday.
It is 23 years since the master of Seven Barrows first plundered the always-competitive handicap with Sharpical, since when he has added to his tally with dual winner Geos (2000 and 2004), Landing Light (2001) and My Tent Or Yours (2013).
His two chief contenders for this year’s renewal are the unexposed course-and-distance winner Mister Coffey and top-weight Buzz.
Stable jockey Nico de Boinville partners Mister Coffey, last seen finishing third in the December Handicap Hurdle at Sandown, while Kevin Brogan takes 5lb off the back of Betfair Exchange Trophy runner-up Buzz – who would otherwise carry the welter burden of 11st 12lb.
Henderson said: “Mister Coffey finished third at Sandown last time, and I think we’ve got to assume his education is over now and ride him with more confidence and more prominently.
“There’s no point trying to drop him out in a race like this. We’re hopeful Nico can ride a normal race, which should make it easier.
“Buzz seems to have improved a fair bit this year. He acts on soft ground, was very good at Ascot and began the season by finishing third in the Welsh Champion Hurdle.
“He has run three very sound races, but consequently has crept up the handicap. We’re claiming off him to help a bit.”
Henderson’s third string is outsider Fred, who reverts to hurdling after finishing fourth on his chasing debut at Warwick in the autumn.
The two at the top of the market are Dan Skelton’s Cadzand and the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Soaring Glory.
Runner-up on his hurdling debut at Ayr, Cadzand has since produced two impressive performances to win at Warwick and Kempton.
Mark Speelman, racing manager for owners Chelsea Thoroughbreds, said: “He travelled like a nice horse last time at Kempton – and the form has worked out since, with the second (Christopher Wood) winning the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Musselburgh.
“He does look to be a horse who will hopefully be suited by a big field. He really caught the eye at Kempton and quickened up nicely, showing a nice turn of foot and putting the race to bed.
“Obviously he’s got a bit more weight to carry, but hopefully he can continue his progress.”
Ben Pauling has high hopes for Shakem Up’Arry, who carries the colours of football manager Harry Redknapp.
The seven-year-old reverts to handicap company after chasing home Metier in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last month.
“He’s a chaser in the making, but certainly has plenty to give for the rest of this season over hurdles,” said Pauling.
“Like with a lot of horses, he’ll only get better and better with age.
“I think he goes to Newbury with a great shout. He’s a very strong traveller, he’s a great jumper and he handles very tough ground.”