Bristol de Mai has the opportunity to make history at Haydock on Saturday, when he attempts to become the first horse to win three consecutive renewals of the Betfair Chase.
Not seen since finishing a well-held fourth behind Kemboy in the Bowl Chase at Aintree in April, his excellent record when fresh suggests his absence won't be an issue, while Bristol de Mai's supporters will also take heart from his remarkable record at Haydock, where he is unbeaten in four starts.
The eight-year-old has been simply dominant on every occasion, too, with his first three wins coming by an aggregate winning margin of 111 lengths, including a 57-length demolition job when landing this race for the first time in 2017.
The ground was extremely testing on that occasion - conditions which he was thought to need to be seen to best effect - but an unseasonably dry autumn led to good ground being the order of the day for last year's Betfair Chase, which ultimately proved no matter to Bristol de Mai, who delivered a top-class performance to beat Native River by four lengths.
Furthermore, Bristol de Mai went on prove that he is far from a one-dimensional chaser when producing one of his better efforts away from Haydock to finish third in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March, coming out clear best of the British-trained runners behind Al Boum Photo.
There is no doubt that Nigel Twiston-Davies will have him trained to the minute for his hat-trick bid, and his formidable record in these conditions entitles him to the utmost respect.
Bristol de Mai will be joined by stablemate Ballyoptic, who made a winning reappearance in handicap company at Chepstow in October, before producing a career best to follow up in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby (by three and three quarter lengths from Elegant Escape), responding well to draw clear after the last in conditions that placed the emphasis on stamina.
The nine-year-old seems to have returned a much-improved performer this year and will be seen to better effect than most if this develops into a slog, but he probably needs to improve again if he is going to play a part now stepping up even further in grade.
Similar comments apply to Elegant Escape, who was conceding 4 lb to Ballyoptic at Wetherby and reopposes here. Last year's Welsh Grand National winner ran a typical race that day on his first start after seven months off, doing his best work at the finish after being outpaced five out.
Colin Tizzard's charge is entitled to strip fitter here, but he also had his limitations at this level rather exposed on his final two starts of last season, when sixth in both the Gold Cup and Bowl Chase. He needs a significant career best to have anything other than a minor say in proceedings, though his way of going should ensure he is still plugging on at the finish when others have cried enough.
Whether stablemate Lostintranslation will be one of them is one of the most interesting features of this race, with the seven-year-old being one of the first of last season's high-class novice crop to take the plunge in open Grade 1 company.
Lostintranslation won two of his six starts as a novice, including the Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree (by six lengths from Topofthegame) on his final outing, while Defi du Seuil, the horse he chased home on two other occasions, advertised the strength of his form when making a winning return in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday.
There was plenty to like about Lostintranslation's successful reappearance, too. Indeed, his defeat of Count Meribel (to whom he conceded 6 lb) in an intermediate chase at Carlisle was just about as pleasing as comebacks get, jumping superbly in front and quickening clear on the bridle after the last to win by two and a quarter lengths.
Clearly, this is comfortably the stiffest task he has been set, but he certainly rates an exciting prospect, with seemingly all the tools to make his presence felt in this division in the months to come for Tizzard, who prepared Cue Card for his three wins in this race.
Paul Nicholls is the only other man to have supplied a multiple winner of this race - he trained both Kauto Star and Silviniaco Conti - and he will be represented by Frodon, one of the most popular horses in training.
Frodon won the Old Roan Chase at Aintree on his first start of the 2018/19 campaign before going on to record a hat-trick of high-profile wins at Cheltenham, showing top-class form on each occasion to land the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, Cotswold Chase (by three quarters of a length from Elegant Escape) and Ryanair Chase (by a length and a quarter from Aso).
The seven-year-old shaped as if better for the run after eight months off when a well-held third behind Forest Bihan in the latest renewal of the Old Roan Chase at Aintree, where he was not helped by the reduced jumping test (all fences in the straight were bypassed due to low sun). He should be much closer to form with that outing under his belt, a level that puts him right in the mix.
In summary, this has the makings of a fascinating clash between Bristol de Mai and Lostintranslation. The former loves it at Haydock and is likely to have been primed for his hat-trick bid in this race, but preference at the current prices is for an up-and-coming force amongst the staying chasers in the shape of Lostintranslation. He created an excellent impression when making a winning return at Carlisle and is taken to find the extra improvement needed to make his presence felt in a division that lacks a standout performer on this side of the Irish Sea. The admirable Frodon completes the shortlist.