The original cast for the delayed King George VI Chase at Kempton is due to reassemble on Saturday, with only a few minor changes.
In his bid for a record fifth King George, Kauto Star is still due to face 10 rivals, chief of which -- in case anyone had forgotten during the period of limbo -- are judged by the market to be Long Run, Nacarat and Riverside Theatre.
However, one jockey will be missing. Tom Scudamore was yesterday ruled out of the ride on the 2009 runner-up Madison Du Berlais after damaging a kidney in a fall at Sandown on Saturday.
"I took a bit of a kick," he said, "and a scan has showed I've torn a bit of kidney, and I've got to go back in two weeks for another scan."
His replacement on the David Pipe-trained 10-year-old will be decided later in the week.
One horse almost certain to be missing is last year's Irish Independent Arkle winner, Sizing Europe, as trainer Henry de Bromhead is extremely unlikely to make the trip from Waterford again.
"I think we're going to give it a miss," said De Bromhead. "It's too much travelling in too short a time. Though the horse is in great form, we had a horrendous trip back from Kempton and it's in the back of my mind that he got travel sickness on the way over to Cheltenham in 2009."
Despite his retaining stable, that of Alan King, sending runners to Warwick the same afternoon, Robert Thornton will keep the ride on Tom Cooper's Forpadydeplasterer.
The raider -- runner-up in his last seven races -- will be stepping up to three miles for the first time and, though the forecast rain is a matter of some concern to his Kerry-based handler, the nine-year-old will line up.
"Soft ground is something we could do without," Cooper said yesterday, "but the plan is to travel over and have a go. And he won't get beat for lack of fitness, we've been able to keep on the go since Christmas.
"I presume the riding plans are the same unless Barry Geraghty became available for some unforeseen reason. I just need to confirm with Dave Roberts (agent).
"Hopefully the ground won't get too deep and it is fresh ground too that hasn't been raced on since February. The travelling won't be a worry at least, he's used to all that now, he's pretty unflappable."
Geraghty also has some ground concerns for his mount, but Riverside Theatre does at least have some good course form to fall back on.
"He's good round Kempton. He'll handle most grounds but if it's too soft, he'll have to try to cope with it. It's a track where I suppose you just want a horse that travels and has a good cruising speed," said the Meath jockey.
The rider of second favourite Long Run, the amateur Sam Waley-Cohen, believes an on-song Kauto Star is "almost unbeatable".
"I think if Kauto's on his best form then he's going to take a hell of a lot of beating," he stated. "We've been watching Kauto's races over and over again looking for chinks in his armour and it's very hard to identify something.
"Having said that, Long Run has an enormous engine and everything he is doing at home gives us a lot of encouragement, but there's no doubt at all that Kauto on his day is almost unbeatable."
After his controversial defeat at Leopardstown on Sunday, Jessies Dream is to head straight for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Trainer Gordon Elliott has lost none of his faith in David Johnson's gelding, drawing a line through his reverse at the hands of Magnanimity in a three-horse affair and is expecting an improved display in March.
"He's come out of the race fine. It was just one of those days and we're putting a line through it and we're looking forward to Cheltenham in March," said the Meath handler.
"He's better than that. Things didn't work out for him and it was a messy race, but we're looking forward to bigger and better things."
Jessies Dream, which benefited from the last-fence fall of Mikael d'Haguenet to take the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse last month, is a top-priced 16/1 for the RSA. (© Independent News Service)