Cole Harden is being primed for the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday (2.40pm).
A Fontwell maiden winner last term, he is expected to make his reappearance in the Grade 2 contest over three miles and one furlong.
The five-year-old son of Westerner, who is trained by Warren Greatrex, is one of 10 entries gunning for the £37,000 prize.
The Lambourn-based handler has been delighted with the 150-rated gelding’s preparations.
But he is under no illusions about the task he will face on Saturday – with unbeaten World Hurdle winner More Of That, Fingal Bay, At Fishers Cross and dual Grade 1 winner Zarkandar also among the entries.
Greatrex said: ‘He has strengthened up over the summer and his home work seems to have improved a little – but it will have had to!
‘I took him to Newbury at the weekend for an away day and he went well there.
‘It was a little bit of a surprise he reached the heights he did last year but he has got a seriously good attitude and a terrific will to win.
‘He goes out there with his heart on his sleeve and keeps getting better and better.
‘He is only a five-year-old, so hopefully he can continue that progression.
‘Saturday will tell us more off a rating of 150 and, if he is competitive, we will keep looking at those good staying hurdles.’
Cole Harden was beaten by Shantou Magic on hurdles debut at Fontwell a year ago.
He returned little more than three weeks later to get off the mark before soaring to a rating of 150 by the end of the season.
The Irish-bred talent was seventh behind the triumphant Faugheen in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
But he then capped his season with a brilliant second to Beat That in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.