Nicky Henderson is banking on Bobs Worth again winning the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup to help fill the massive void left by a couple of his absent stablemates.
The Seven Barrows team could not have envisaged a season where Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig, both winners at the meeting last year, would only run once between them. But the latter has not even seen a racecourse this term, while Sprinter Sacre was pulled up on his sole start at Kempton over Christmas after his heart problems first surfaced.
While Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig are flash and exuberant in how they go about their work, Bobs Worth is nothing of the sort - but Henderson would not have it any other way.
After a rare blip at Haydock on his comeback, Bobs Worth travelled to Ireland and powered home to win the Lexus Chase, leaving several of his Gold Cup rivals toiling.
"You always forget that Bob is there because he's such a reliable, lovely person and I've always said that," said Henderson. "I bemoan that I haven't got Sprinter Sacre or Simonsig this year but the actual star of the show, there he is, doing his own thing. Sprinter is all flash and as good a looking horse as you'll ever see. Bob hasn't got his natural talent but I bet Bob has a bigger heart. He does not know when to give up."
Barry Geraghty also has a soft spot for Bobs Worth. Not only has he provided the jockey with wins at three successive Festivals, Geraghty sold him to Henderson as a young horse.
The one new rival for Bobs Worth, however, is Philip Fenton's Last Instalment, and Geraghty has huge respect for the Irish Hennessy winner.
"He [Last Instalment] has obviously been held up with injury, but I love the horse and I'd be very fearful of him. He jumps, he travels, and he's a big, strong horse. "He's a Denman/Kicking King-type model - he's a big beast."
A late decision on Last Instalment's participation will be made as he must have some give in the ground. "They watered on Wednesday night and the fog on Thursday morning will all help keep the moisture in," said Philip Fenton. "We are keen to run, we want to run, but we'll do what is best for the horse. I imagine we'll make a decision around 11.30am."
Brian O'Connell, who did the steering in the Hennessy, again gets the leg-up after intended rider Bryan Cooper suffered a broken leg on Wednesday.
Noel Fehily rides the Paul Nicholls-trained Silviniaco Conti, a faller late on 12 months ago when still in contention. He was a good winner of the King George VI Chase at Kempton where he outstayed Cue Card.
"The King George was a great race with no hiding place," said Fehily "I wouldn't have a problem about the hill. He's very balanced, he's not over big so going up and down hills shouldn't be a problem. Last year he just got a little bit keen and for whatever reason just ran into the bottom of the fence and it just caught him out. He's a sound jumper and hasn't made a mistake in two runs this year, so I wouldn't worry about his jumping. I rode him in a gallop with Big Buck's at Exeter and he felt great, Paul Nicholls is brilliant at preparing horses for the Gold Cup."
Lyreen Legend was just touched off by Lord Windermere in the RSA Chase 12 months ago and his trainer Dessie Hughes could do with a change of luck after the fatal fall of Our Conor in the Champion Hurdle.
Lord Windermere has been slightly disappointing this season but trainer Jim Culloty is hoping a return to Cheltenham sparks him back to life.
"I wish I was going to Cheltenham with a better run under his belt but for various reasons things have just not gone right for him this season. There is nothing wrong with him and he is in good old form."
The Giant Bolster bounced back to his best wearing a hood and a visor in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham. Having finished second and fourth in the last two renewals, trainer David Bridgwater has every reason to fell bullish about his claims.
"I think the last time he got his ground was in his novice chase at Worcester, however many years ago, but he'll get it again at last," said Bridgwater. "If he jumps, and they all need to jump, and if he has luck in running, and they all need luck in running, then on pure ability along he has to be in the first three.