Trained by Colin Tizzard, Native River fought off the challenge of his Nicky Henderson-trained rival in a memorable encounter at Cheltenham, but he has not won in three starts at the highest level since and is now being tested in Grade 2 company on his seasonal reappearance.
The Tizzards have an excellent hand in the staying-chase division led by Lostintranslation – the current 4-1 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite following his impressive Betfair Chase win – but they believe Native River is a name not to forget.
Tizzard said of the former Ladbrokes Trophy and Coral Welsh National winner: "We'll have him there [at Aintree] as long as it doesn't dry up too much. He went to Newbury on Sunday morning for a racecourse gallop and has come back in really good form. He's ready to run and this is the only option we've got for the next week or two.
"I'd say it looks the right race for him, he won there as a novice so it'll be good to take him back. It looks a good race, with Might Bite in there it's like the Gold Cup again."
Owned by Brocade Racing, the nine-year-old has plenty of big-race options later in the season and Saturday's run should help decide where he is likely to be aimed.
"It'll tell us a bit more about him," Tizzard added. "If he looks as though he wants to go further than three-and-a-half miles then we'd go to Chepstow next for the Welsh National.
"If he's bang there and competitive on Saturday, then we'll have to look at the Grade 1 races. We'll have to see what happens at the weekend."
Native River has been installed as a 5-4 favourite with the sponsors for the Grade 2 event, with Might Bite a 7-2 chance. Other rivals entered in the race include Black Corton, Top Notch and back-to-back winner of the race, Definitly Red.
Slate House, another top chaser from Tizzard's Venn Farm stable, is also due to be in action this weekend at Huntingdon following his unfortunate fall at a crucial moment in the BetVictor Gold Cup.
The handicapper raised Slate House 6lb despite falling at the second-last fence when mounting a strong challenge.
The Dorset trainer is hoping for an improved round of jumping from Slate House in the 2m7½f novice chase on Sunday before he turns his attention to loftier targets.
Tizzard said: "We wanted to get a bit more jumping experience into him on the racetrack after he fell last time. We didn't want to go back into another huge handicap. If everything goes right with his schooling this week he'll probably turn up there."