Owner Ian Hamilton expects Nuts Well to put up a staunch defence of his crown in the Jewson Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase at Aintree on Sunday.
The 10-year-old secured the biggest victory of his career to date when landing the Grade Two limited handicap 12 months ago.
Just as he did last season, Nuts Well warmed up for his trip to Merseyside with a handicap success at Kelso and connections are confident he remains at the top of his game, despite his advancing years.
Hamilton, whose wife Ann is the trainer, said: “We think he’s as good as he’s been, so we’re looking forward to it.
“We think he’s on top form. He did it easily at Kelso, but this is a bit hotter I think.
“I think he’s getting better with age – I’m getting worse with age, but he’s getting better!”
The Olly Murphy-trained Itchy Feet finished third when favourite for last year’s Old Roan and is fitted with cheek pieces for his second attempt.
“He’s going into the race a fresh horse and he usually runs well fresh,” said Murphy.
“His jumping has been a lot better, so hopefully he can translate that to the track.
“Hopefully the cheek pieces help him going forward – he’s schooled well in them this week.
“It’s a competitive renewal, but the prize-money is very good and he’s got a good each-way chance if he puts in a good round of jumping.”
Allmankind was one of last season’s leading novice chasers and trainer Dan Skelton hopes a recent spin over hurdles at Chepstow has left him cherry-ripe for his latest big-race assignment.
He said: “I was surprised last year when he got beaten first time out in a four-year-old hurdle at Cheltenham. His form before that and his form after that suggests he should have won, but he needed it badly.
“With that in mind, we wanted to get a run into him before coming here. If he hadn’t gone to Chepstow he’d have no hope hope whatsoever of winning this – it was so important to get that run in.
“He’s been grand since and loves jumping fences. This has been the plan and I’m happy with everything.”
Paul Nicholls, who has previously won the Old Roan with the great Kauto Star (2006), Sound Investment (2015) and Frodon (2018), is this year represented by Tamaroc Du Mathan.
Killer Clown (Emma Lavelle), Fanion D’Estruval (Venetia Williams), Huntsman Son (Alex Hales) and Midnight Shadow (Sue Smith) complete the field.