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."
18 December 2014Power plan uncertain for Westener
Kauto pleases in Olympia display
Mullins eyes twin assault on Lexus
Value oozes class in Newbury romp
Annie Power on road to recovery
Spencer strikes after U-turn
Vautour ready for next jumps test
Mullins banks on Faugheen progress
Victory set to skip Ladbroke
Mullins: Fever can go the distance
17 December 2014Sidelined Brian misses Whittle
Sceaux to sidestep Haydock raid
Square season derailed by injury
Lexus a non-starter for Clouds
Europe return hinges on ground
Injury woe for Cookson
Plans on hold for Topper
Appeal success for Russell/Enright
Mulholland makes Master plan
Cango makes Catterick impression
Field sizes under BHA microscope
Quinn outlines Aurore options
Legal laying down the law at Ludlow
Ground dictates Attaglance plans
King heartened by Walkon return
Cross set Christmas conundrum
16 December 2014Pipe bowled over by Palace
Cole to duck Leopardstown mission
Pipe bowled over by Palace
Arbuthnot has Starluck options
Geraghty taken with weekend Heroes
Moore the merrier at Plumpton
Estrella back with a bang
Options fluid for Hargam
Lough set for Lexus workout
Sceaux in Haydock frame
Victoire at Ladbroke summit
Five left in Long Walk
15 December 2014Hannon has trio lined up for Dubai
Sherwood sweats on Power Welsh bid
Puffin angling for Ascot return
Kauto takes the plunge at Olympia
River looks swell for Theatre
Ginge team ponder Plate target
View sights fixed on Kempton prize
Sole to stick to trusted routine
Spencer in retirement U-turn
Elliott keen to play waiting game
Pineau pulled up at Carlisle
Heroes steps up in thriller
Estrella returns at Wolves
New camp delay Christmas call
Not a bother on Berlais
Farraaj sixth in Hong Kong Cup
Flintshire comes good in Vase