Dan Skelton's Nube Negra will make his first appearance of the season at Cheltenham's November meeting in the Grade Two Shloer Chase looking to defend his title in the race, but this year he will have to beat Arkle winner Edwardstone.
The Dan Skelton trained gelding has been waited patiently on over the last few seasons, finishing second in the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices' Chase, before backing that up another smart placed run in the Kingmaker Novices' Chase.
Having been off the track for 10 months he returned in the Grade Two Desert Orchid and he looked a vastly improved horse to beat Altior and land the event.
He was primed for a run at the Cheltenham festival in the Grade One Champion Chase and having came late off the pace he was just outdone on the line by the mare Put The Kettle On.
Coming off the back his second at the festival, he went to the Punchestown festival but unfortunately flopped behind Chacun Pour Soi and Allaho.
The Spanish bred animal started off last term in the Shloer Chase and was a bold winner of the event seeing off Politologue by six lengths.
Seen just twice more last season he ran no race in the Tingle Creek with the race maybe coming a bit soon for him and having skipped the Cheltenham festival, he went to Sandown for the Celebration Chase and was well beat by Greaneteen and Sceau Royal.
A horse that goes well fresh he will have to be better than ever to see off Arkle victor Edwardstone, but his trainer Dan Skelton believes you can't right him off.
(Credit ATR) Skelton said: “There will be two very different mindsets between us and Alan King going into next week – one will want rain and one won’t!
He can run on good to soft, especially when he’s fresh, but it’s very much the better ground, the better the horse with him.
“He’s been to the grass gallop this morning and had a good day out and worked as well as I’ve ever seen him to be honest. I think as he’s getting a bit older he’s drawing just a bit of stamina and he’s looking outstanding, so I couldn’t be happier.
“He’s irritatingly good fresh, if that makes sense. You have to give him these extended breaks between races, but we’ll see how we get on at Cheltenham. We would love to win the race again and if it happens we will make a plan after that. If we get beaten we’d have to go hunting for a race but if he can win it will take the pressure off as he can’t have a bad year so to speak.
“Edwardstone is a mightily high-class opponent, albeit one who is stepping out of novice company for the first time, so we’ve got a task on our hands.
“It was a massive blow to miss out on the Champion Chase, but when the conditions went the way they did it wasn’t a blow at all. If I’d have run him he could still have been out there now, but it was a blow to get that rain and miss out – of course it was.
“There’s unfinished business for sure and we’d love to get a fair crack at the race again in suitable conditions, but that’s in the lap of the gods as you saw last year.”