Francois Doumen believes Baracouda is as good as last year before his bid to go one better in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and claim the Cheltenham's stayers' championship for a third time today.
T he 11-year-old was runner-up to the sidelined Inglis Drever 12 months ago and occupied the same spot the previous March, having been successful in 2002 and 2003.
Doumen said: "All the lights are green. He's very fresh in his head. He's an 11-year-old now and can't improve any more but he seems really at home and the same value as last year.
"He's prepared for it and we'll be disappointed if he doesn't run well."
Doumen also runs Blue Canyon and Millenium Royal, who he rates highly.
He said: "He's a good horse, although he is not well-known over here. He won the biggest Group One in France over three miles easily on soft ground. The ground won't be like that this week.
"He's a solid horse and could make the places."
Robert Thornton is hoping more rain comes to improve the chances of his mount My Way de Solzen, trained by Alan King.
The jockey said: "We could do with plenty more of the wet stuff for tomorrow but as long as it's safe he'll take his chance.
"Hopefully, he's got a good chance but if it was soft ground I'd be very positive. Otherwise I'd like to see him finish in the first four.
"I schooled him the other morning and he felt very well. There's been no blemishes in his preparation."
Barry Geraghty is looking forward to teaming up with another French raider Ambobo, trained by Arnaud Chaille-Chaille.
He said: "He's won and done well in France and he's in good form and I think he has every chance."
Irish trainer Michael Halford believes his runner Golden Cross has "good credentials".
The seven-year-old, the mount of Derby-winning Flat jockey Johnny Murtagh, will be tackling three miles for the first time.
However, he successfully stepped up to two miles, seven furlongs at Navan on his latest start a month ago.
He has also mixed it with the best over two miles, winning a Grade One at odds of 66-1 in December 2003 and beaten only five lengths into third place behind Brave Inca and Macs Joy in the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in January.
"The race will take a lot of winning, I'm sure," Halford said yesterday.
"He's got good credentials -he stays well, he ran well when third in the Grade One Irish Champion Hurdle behind Brave Inca and Macs Joy and the form was advertised yesterday.
"He stayed well at Navan and we're looking forward to it. I wouldn't want the ground to get any faster then good. I was glad to see a drop of rain yesterday. Slower than good would suit us better.
"He's in great form. Johnny knows the horse well - he's won two Flat races on him. He's got on great jumping with him, too, and we're delighted to have him.
"As for dangers, I imagine the three I'd pick would be Baracouda, My Way De Solzen and Mighty Man. But I'm happy with our fellow and we're sure he'll give a good account of himself."
Connections of Asian Maze are planning to leave it late before deciding whether she tackles the race.
The seven-year-old took a nasty tumble at the fourth flight in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle but is reported to be none the worse for the experience.
Trainer Tom Mullins said: "She's fine this morning but we haven't made a decision on the World Hurdle yet.
"She got a kick in the neck and there is some slight bruising but, other than that, she's fine. We will just see how it goes with her before the end of the day - we may leave it until the morning before we make a decision on the World Hurdle."
Asian Maze is as low as 5-1 with William Hill for the three-mile test after winning two Grade Ones last season.