Threeunderthrufive will be short odds to take his record over fences to four wins from five outings at Warwick on Saturday.
Sixth in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival last year, the Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old has made smooth progress since switching to the bigger obstacles, most recently taking the Grade Two December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster.
He had won at Cheltenham and Exeter before that and this weekend’s assignment in the Wigley Group Hampton Novices’ Chase will tell connections more about whether the McNeill family-owned gelding will run in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase in March or the longer National Hunt Chase.
Assistant trainer Harry Derham said: “He is very well, it looks a race he would be capable of winning and we are very hopeful he will.”
Mint Condition appears the biggest danger to the market leader.
Beaten just a neck in the Leamington Novices’ Hurdle on this card 12 months ago, the eight-year-old was the same distance away from landing his novice chase at Haydock at the start of December before making no mistake at the end of the month.
Alan O’Keeffe, assistant to trainer Jennie Candlish, said: “He did it nicely the last day at Haydock. He stayed on well and and we feel the step up in trip will suit him. We wouldn’t want the ground to dry out too much more – the softer the better for him, really – but if I think if there is plenty of juice in the ground he will give his running.
“The favourite will be hard to beat, but if you are not in it, you can’t win it and the owners are local to Warwick, so they are keen to have a go and it’s decent prize-money.
“He is going forward and he’ll be a lovely staying chaser. We have it in the back of our mind that he might turn into a Welsh National horse next season.”
Sandy Thompson is hoping Doyen Breed lives up to his official rating of 142 after finishing four and a half lengths behind Bushypark at Kelso. The latter horse was subsequently disappointing when favourite but only third to Mint Condition at Haydock.
The Berwick trainer said: “We are slightly forced to go there, because we don’t know if his handicap mark is right or not.
“It was a muddling race at Kelso and if he was beaten a short head, he would not have been moved.
“What is the form of Bushypark like? I don’t know. Nobody knows how good Bushypark is.
“On ratings, he has got a good chance and the winner (Mint Condition) is obviously a decent horse, but we have got to go and take our chance.”
Thompson sees Doyen Breed as a promising staying chaser and tabbed the Scottish National at Ayr as a long-term target for the seven-year-old.
He added: “When he ran at Aintree last year, I thought the Scottish National would be somewhere he might be going at the end of this season.
“I am just slightly concerned his mark of 142 is unrealistic, but we will find out a bit more on Saturday.
“The ground was soft enough at Kelso and we will be happy with the ground at Warwick.”
The Neil Mulholland-trained Any News had useful form to his name as a novice hurdler, and while yet to get off the mark in three tries over fences, he has shown promise, albeit his latest outing at Exeter was below par.
He is up significantly in trip, and Mulholland said: “It would be nice to see what he is like over three miles. It is a bit of a fact-finding mission. We’ll see what he is like and we obviously have the Paul Nicholls horse and the Sandy Thompson horse to beat at the weights.
“We have been a little bit disappointed with him, we hope our lad is a bit better than 138, but we’ll let him do the talking and see what happens. He handles the track, as he has been round there before.
“It is good prize-money. There’s a small entry and for a horse on a fact-finding mission, you are looking at 15 grand or more for second. It is amazing.”