The grey saw off Clan Des Obeaux to claim the valuable prize 12 months ago in a race marred by clear leader Starchitect suffering a fatal leg injury on the run to the second last fence.
However, Northern challenger Guitar Pete is just 3lb higher in the weights for today’s renewal after finishing third behind Baron Alco and Frodon in last month’s BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
All three horses reoppose today and Richards is hopeful of a solid performance under jockey Ryan Day.
He said: “He’s in grand form and we’re looking forward to it. He ran a great race there last month.
“He’s in really good fettle. We weighed him the other day and his weight is pretty much spot-on.”
Guitar Pete would become only the second dual winner after the Paul Nicholls-trained Poquelin, which landed successive renewals in 2009 and 2010.
Richards added: “I hope everyone gets a clean run round and may the best horse win. Our horse won’t be far away, I promise you.”
Gary Moore’s Baron Alco was runner-up to Road To Respect at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival before being sidelined for 19 months by injury.
He ran an excellent race on his comeback when narrowly denied by the classy Charbel at Chepstow before claiming last month’s Cheltenham feature.
Moore, who also saddles outsider Casse Tete, is hopeful Baron Alco will be competitive again despite being handed a 6lb rise, as he seeks to be the fourth trainer to win both races in the same season.
Moore said: “Baron Alco seems in good form and the ground looks like it will be similar to last time.
“He’s 6lb higher in the weights, so he’s got to be 6lb better. Hopefully there’s some improvement in him.
“Casse Tete will be a big price, but he’s not a bad horse and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.”
Frodon was just two lengths behind Baron Alco last month and renews rivalry for Paul Nicholls and Bryony Frost.
Meanwhile, Nigel Twiston-Davies is hoping a visor will help spark The New One back to life as he attempts to win a fourth Unibet International Hurdle.
The popular 10-year-old ran a rare dull race first time out this season at Ffos Las, where he failed to show any of his customary enthusiasm when beaten 25 lengths by Silver Streak in the Welsh Champion Hurdle.
Returning to his favourite track and a race he had won three times before last year’s defeat to the now retired My Tent Or Yours, The New One needs to show a fair bit more to fend off retirement, a thought mooted earlier in the week, but played down since.
“It is not his swansong, he is just having another race and we will see how he gets on,” said the ever bullish Twiston-Davies.
“We are putting the headgear on to hopefully help sharpen him up as he was disappointing last time.
“We are not saying this is definitely his last by any means. We just want to see a bit more sparkle than at Ffos Las. He has been superb at home and has been good as gold, he is not showing his age at all.
“He’s won the International Hurdle three times. To be beaten by My Tent Or Yours last year – having to give him 6lb – and be beaten a length, it should have been four.”
Another contender on a retrieval mission is Tom George’s Summerville Boy, dramatic winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March.
While set a stiff task in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle against Buveur D’Air and Samcro, he was beaten a long way from home.
George hopes a return to the scene of his finest hour has a rejuvenating effect. “I don’t think his fitness had anything to do with his performance at Newcastle, for some reason he just didn’t show up – but he’s been in good form since then,” he said.