Kalashnikov is set to return to the smaller obstacles in the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle.
Amy Murphy’s star has proved himself a very smart performer over fences in the last two seasons, winning a Grade One as a novice at Aintree and finishing second in the Old Roan last year.
His form tailed off in the second half of the campaign, though, when he broke blood vessels, and he faces a step up in trip back over hurdles on Saturday.
Murphy said: “We’re very much planning to run as long as it is not bottomless.
“He stayed two and a half miles well last year. Obviously he’s had a few issues, so this is very much a starting point for him.
“We’ll just take it as it comes for the rest of the season – if he loves it on Saturday he could stay over hurdles, but the plan is just to get him back on song – fingers crossed we have no more bleeding episodes.
“Prior to those last two runs, he’d never been out of the first two (when completing) and both times he bled.
“We’ve put everything into getting him back. We’ve given him plenty of time, we’ve freshened him up and please God it was something underlying rather than him having an issue.”
There are 24 still in contention for the £80,000 prize, which is no longer run over fixed brush hurdles.
David Pipe’s prolific winner Main Fact is among the market leaders, having lost just once in nine outings for current connections.
His last three wins have come on the Flat, seeing him rise from a mark of 60 to 78 – while his current jumps rating of 147 is 49lb higher than when he joined the yard. Pipe could also run Duc De Beauchene.
There are two possible Irish contenders in Colm Murphy’s Relegate, winner of the 2018 Champion Bumper for Willie Mullins, and The Jam Man – trained in Northern Ireland by Ronan McNally.
The Jam Man was last seen bolting up off a much lower mark over fences in the valuable Troytown Chase at Navan.
Hughie Morrison’s Third Wind, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Wholestone, Royal Ascot winner Who Dares Wins and Fergal O’Brien’s Imperial Alcazar are just a few other potential major contenders in what is sure to be a competitive affair.
Last year’s Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase winner Itchy Feet is among the entries for the Graduation Chase on the card – but he is also entered in a Grade Two at Ascot.
Good Boy Bobby, Master Tommytucker and Windsor Avenue are possible opponents should he run on Merseyside.
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