Daryl Jacob is looking forward to getting the leg-up on Zarkandar at Wincanton as he aims to give lumps of weight and a beating to some talented rivals in the totepool.com Elite Hurdle.
The five-year-old gave Jacob his first taste of Cheltenham Festival glory when landing last year's Triumph Hurdle and while Ruby Walsh was in the saddle when he won last season's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, Jacob was back on board to guide him to fifth place in the Champion Hurdle.
"It's a nice starting point for him and hopefully he'll run a nice race. He's in good form at home and his schooling has been good, so I'm very much looking forward to riding him again. He obviously has to give a lot of weight away, but he is the class horse in the race," said Jacob.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls feels his charge may come on for the run, with next month's International Hurdle at Cheltenham his major early-season target.
"He had a good season and a bad season in some ways last season. I had trouble with him in the autumn and then he came out and won the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. Then he was coughing and he ran OK in the Champion Hurdle, but he wasn't really right and fell the next day," Nicholls told At The Races.
"We've got to get his jumping back and he's a typical Flat horse as he thinks about that fall, but he's going OK. We might aim for the International at Cheltenham in December and obviously aim him at the Champion Hurdle.
"If we've lost pace and he's not jumping well enough we might have to think of stepping him up in trip, but he's one of those who never shows you a lot at home but he's good on the track. It might just take a run to get him sharp again, so Wincanton will be a stepping-stone to Cheltenham."
Nicholls also saddles Prospect Wells, the mount of Ruby Walsh, and the Ryan Mahon-ridden Escort'men.
Tom George is hoping a return to a flatter track can help Baby Mix show his true potential.
The trainer said: "He has won at Cheltenham, but perhaps that wasn't the strongest form and he got away with it on the wrong track, as he hasn't run well there since. I don't know whether he just hasn't been acting round Cheltenham or whether we need to look at different options. We'll know a bit more after the weekend."
25 November 2014Retirement for National hero Mania
Fenton lodges ban appeal
Knott found in breach of rules
No stopping Twiston-Davies
Bans for jockeys in flag drama
Djak experience a concern for Walsh
More headlines Long Distance field
Void race drama at Sedgefield
Tributes flow for Lady Herries
Colombieres stars in Mullins entry
Bridgwater buoyed by Bolster
Trade ready to storm Hong Kong
Bowe ponders Robin Power play
McCoy returns at Fontwell
Apache on the march for Drinmore
Pipe - Stamina key to Bally chance
Sacre not guaranteed for Sandown
Tower 'sore' after Navan spill
Spirit ensures more Henderson woe
Walsh praise for Vautour
Walsh cool on Faugheen odds
Victory team on weather watch
New relief for Twiston-Davies
Nicholls planning dual George raid
Leather in fine form ahead of Cup
24 November 2014Hobbs upbeat about Fingal raid
Fry keen for crack at Tolworth
Midnight to stay over hurdles
Creek seeking Hennessy Gold
Dynaste team consider George run
Topper target hinges on ground
Followme poised for Drinmore date
Balbriggan lands Troytown gamble
Vautour impresses on chasing debut
Un De Sceaux set for Thurles
Melodic team face tough choice
Henderson aims at Listed prize
Croco in frame for Topham
Deputy in Kempton firing line
McBratney banks on Boy progress
23 November 2014Balbriggan all the way
Vautour off to impressive start
Belle set for hurdling campaign
Silvi scraps to Betfair glory
Bally sparkles on Mullins' big day
Kelly's a Fixed Brush hero
Faugheen turns on the style
Fenton banned for three years
Amlin double for fab Ferof
New One excels in Haydock romp
Flyer grounds Ascot rivals
Vasco a cut above opposition
22 November 2014Conti strikes Betfair Chase gold
Taken seeking Listed gold
Mogol facing Monksfield test
Vautour makes chasing bow
Gordon enjoys Dundalk spin
McCoy: Landmark swayed judgment
Jacob warms up with brace
Hill peaking for Troytown return
Billy back on winning track
Walsh back for Ferof ride
New ready for Haydock Rush
Cheltenham is Big aim
Mullins eager for Faugheen run
Cue primed for Betfair defence