DEFENDING champion Trenchant is set to make his long-awaited return from injury in the National Spirit Hurdle.
Fontwell hosts it’s richest race of the season on Sunday, with the Grade 2 contest taking centre stage on a seven race card.
Trenchant defeated Souffleur by two lengths in last year’s renewal.
He then turned in a disappointing performance in the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival three weeks later.
The six-year-old’s trainer had, nevertheless, planned to send his inmate chasing this season.
However, an injury in the autumn forced him off the track.
And Sunday’s showdown in West Sussex has been pencilled in for his comeback, with King shelving plans to send him chasing for the time being.
Retaining his crown is going to be an uphill struggle for the son of Medicean.
He will be shouldered with 11st 11lb on Sunday – 4lb more than 12 months ago – and the opposition looks even stronger.
Stable-mate Karabak and Paul Nicholls’ star Celestial Halo are among the 14 hopefuls, while Sentry Duty carries the threat from the in-form yard of Nicky Henderson.
All three are rated higher than Trenchant, while two-times winner Lough Derg is also 1lb heavier in the handicap.
The National Spirit Hurdle is due off at 3.45pm and is the blue-riband event of an action-packed card.
Minutes earlier handicap chasers will battle it out for the Certain Justice Trophy, while due off at 2.40pm is a mouthwatering battle.
The Play Poker At tspoker.com Novices’ Chase is renowned for featuring future chasing talent and this renewal is no different.
The 16-strong entry includes Bai Zhu – already a Fontwell winner – and Nicholls pair Royal Charm and Rebel Du Maquis.
Nicholls, who won this race last season with grey Take The Breeze, has also thrown American Trilogy into the hat.
Also a grey, he won the County Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2009 and got off the mark in his second attempt over fences with victory at Kempton earlier this month.
Racing begins at 2.10pm.