BALTHAZAR KING have gone off the radar but although the cross-country specialist will be absent for Cheltenham, he is giving off encouraging signals for Aintree.
The gelding will not attempt to repeat his 2014 victory in the cross country chase, with Philip Hobbs preferring to keep him on hold for a shot at the Crabbie's Grand National.
Having beaten all but Pineau De Re in the Aintree spectacular 10 months ago, connections are more than hopeful he can go one better and he looked in very good order traversing the woodchip gallop at Sandhill.
DUKE OF LUCCA well prove a more than able deputy in the Glenfarclas-sponsored cross country race, and he is showing signs of coming to the boil at just the right time.
While sometimes looking hard work in handicap chases, his record in this sphere speaks for itself and with similar tutoring to Balthazar King, he has plenty to look forward to in that discipline.
He also shone in his work on Hobbs' network of steep all-weathers.
SAUSALITO SUNRISE a choice of engagements at the Festival and is training well. Although in the novice category, he is a sound jumper who could make the transition into handicaps.
GARDE LA VICTOIRE a success in the Greatwood Hurdle at the course and may well head for another handicap, possibly the County Hurdle.
His class will enable him to figure prominently but an equally strong candidate from the stable is
He went off one of the favourites for that race last year, only to go out like a light after plenty of use was made of him. A placing in the Betfair Hurdle certifies that Cheltenian is now back on song and he's worked encouragingly since Newbury.
GOLDEN DOYEN work to do with several Triumph Hurdle rivals but always works well and would not be inconvenienced by cut in the ground.
CARDINAL WALTER out on a quiet afternoon for Nicky Henderson when travelling to Doncaster.
The Cape Cross gelding went well in his latest piece of stronger work and looked on good terms with himself breezing on Friday morning.
The six-year-old was a solid performer for owner Fitri Hay on the Flat last year and has taken to hurdling like a duck to water.
He was hugely impressive when scoring on his NH also on Town Moor, but ran into one when meeting Qewy at Newbury, though he put up a creditable performance in defeat and could easily bounce back.
CALL THE COPS sidestepped a couple of engagements but is set to emerge at Doncaster.
He put in a pleasing reappearance to trouble the judge when not fully wound up at Kempton in November and, being by Presenting, has been all dressed up with nowhere to go owing to the widespread testing ground.
He has been giving off positive signals and should make up for lost time through the spring.
NEW HORIZONS due to run early next month after some encouraging work. Although a shade disappointing up to now, he is capable of better.
The trainer's Festival squad are now ticking over ahead of one more bit of proper work leading up to the big meeting beginning next Tuesday week.
TOP NOTCH been living up to his name both at home and on the racecourse and must not be dismissed as the stable's 'third pick' for the Triumph Hurdle.
He jumps with aplomb and has a businesslike attitude that should serve him well in the juvenile championship.
MA FILLEULE connections with her recovery from a good run in defeat last time and holds solid claims for a prominent display in the Ryanair Chase.
THE NEW ONE Nigel Twiston- Davies' team of horses that worked up the Fibresand gallop this morning.
The Champion Hurdle second favourite traversed the steep facility twice and looks in tip-top order with his Festival target just a week and a half away.
His trainer cannot put his finger on the reason for a pronounced market drift earlier in the week, and seeing the gelding stride out powerfully this morning you can see why.
He has shown a liking for Cheltenham, in a similar manner to stablemate DOUBLE ROSS season.
The latter was also in action working ahead of the Ryanair Chase.
He has not managed to recapture his excellent form of last year and, in his trainer's words, has been "a bit delicate".
However, he is now in A1 shape and is on course for a tilt at the Grand National after the Festival.
ASTRACAD at the base of the handicap for the Grand Annual but this regular visitor to the Festival is working as well as ever.
LITTLE JON been working well and is considered his trainer's dark horse for the Festival.
BRISTOL DE MAI a date at Kelso on Saturday and will skip Cheltenham to wait for Aintree.
The grey has thrived since his defeat in a Graded race at Sandown.
Nicky Henderson took a handful of horses to the Mandown grass gallops as an important step in their preparations for Cheltenham.
Statistically, Henderson has triumphed with an astonishing percentage of hurdlers as opposed to chasers during the winter.
PEACE AND CO one of the mainstay of that first section, having demonstrated sheer class with his impressive successes at Doncaster and Cheltenham.
The former French-based gelding showed he is on his A-game he pleased in his work on a dull, dreary morning.
SPRINTER SACRE done everything right since his defeat in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot.
He was let down and put on weight in the immediate aftermath, but has delighted Henderson in every department of his make-up subsequently.
He schooled beautifully last week and following this stretch, he will have one more piece of stronger work ahead of the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
VANITEUX himself in a visit to Kempton yesterday when Barry Geraghty partnered the gelding.
Few at Seven Barrows exude as much natural talent in their work and Vaniteux delighted his pilot, who came specially from Ireland to ride in the work.
Vaniteux has had to contend with the likes of The New One on the racecourse but remains a class act and capable of landing a marquee race at some stage of the season.
JOSSES HILL returning to the scene of his defeat over fences last month but in similar style to Vaniteux, he demonstrated what a potent force he is on the track.
POLLY PEACHUM do well in the valuable mares' races that lie ahead, and she also put in some satisfactory work.
ROYAL REGATTA been sending out encouraging signals in his work on Philip Hobbs's network of all-weather gallops to advertise his claims for Saturday's Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury.
The King's Theatre seven-year-old looks progressive and has already converted at the Berkshire course this season, scoring authoritatively in another handicap chase at the end of November.
He has shown an appetite for work and has been winning his gallops to indicate that after a relatively light campaign, he's one to follow for the rest of the season.
Hobbs usually has a decent hunter in the ranks at Sandhill and the former Irish-trained OUT NOW filling that role.
Having won well on his debut for the stable in a hunter-Chase at Warwick, he can be followed in his division to add to those laurels.
POWERFUL ACTION one of the few hurdlers Hobbs may run later in the week.
The seven-year-old landed handicaps at Ludlow and Wincanton. He seems in just as good form as before either of those triumphs and really grabbed the ground in his latest visit to the woodchip strip.
TRICKAWAY a choice of engagements later in the week in handicap chases at the smaller venues. He's already paid his way with a couple of wins but looked sprightly and alert going up the woodchip, indicating there could be more to come.
ROALCO DE FARGES shown a liking for Newbury and the 10-year-old also glided up the strip ahead of his bid for the veterans' chase at that course.
Others to catch the eye included IRISH BUCCANEER, TONY STAR