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."
27 January 2015Grimthorpe goal for Milan
Nicholls retains Zarkandar faith
Ellison duo primed for Supreme test
Mulholland maps out Festival plans
Master retains Festival options
Ruby handed World ticket
Doubt team seek jumping improvement
Dettori possible for National role
Uttoxeter bid appeals for Murphy
Ryanair defence likely for Dynaste
Palace stars in Towton fifteen
Gilgamboa set for longer trip
Jezki 'fine' after Hurricane defeat
Sire satisfies in schooling session
Sceaux leaves Mullins purring
Faugheen fancied for Walsh mount
26 January 2015Aintree on the agenda for Concerto
Light camp cool on Newbury raid
Zarib earmarked as Winter warmer
Lingfield washed away
Lingfield washed away
'Awesome' Sceaux in Arkle romp
Mullins lands the treble
Super Fly proves Champion again
Concerto plans hinge on scan
Sherwood - More to come from Clouds
Skelton nominates Bartlett for Risk
Bridgwater thrilled with Bolster
Foxrock given Hennessy green light
Meade gives Monksland World aim
25 January 2015Sceaux much to admire in Arkle
Sceaux much to admire in Arkle
Williams weighing up Tea options
Lingfield jumps card under threat
Saphir sparkles in Cleeve
Chao springs Neptune surprise
Donny glory never In Doubt
Tango hot to trot at Donny
Apache claims Blaklion scalp
Day disappointment as Anna shines
Clouds claims Cup glory
McCoy rules on Kingdoms
Peace takes Triumph Trial
24 January 2015More injury woe for Carberry
Tiger ready to Roll
Surrey National target for Itoldyou
Sire thrills Moore in Saturday spin
Walsh braced for Sceaux thriller
Festival dream alive for Desilvano
Martello on the march
Snowden excited by View return
Cole chasing Cleeve glory
Green light for Uttoxeter
Easter to swerve Skybet Chase
Pauling lands Town Moor double
Anna aiming for Trophy triumph
Blaklion on prowl at Doncaster
Sceaux primed for Arkle test
Geraghty hoping Co call pays off
Sherwood's head not in the Clouds
Jezki has Fly in sights again
Ground 'not ideal' for Fly