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."
7 March 2014Exchange rate pays dividend
Temps doubtful for Festival
Lockinge target for Tonto
Conor settles in at Cheltenham
De Bromhead sweet on Special
Epsom to honour St Nick
All set for a super Saturday
Mullins dominates JLT entries
Al and Dynaste top Ryanair field
Big two lead World possibles
Silver aiming to shine
Imperial only thought for Honeyball
Distance fears for Highland
Montiridge preps for Dubai trip
Ayr gets go-ahead
Ayr delay inspection decision
Benbulben misses Cheltenham
Card 'gut wrencher' for Tizzard
Guard stands tall for new record
Faugheen looms over Neptune field
Ballycasey stands firm in RSA
Sire spearheads Queen Mother list
Australia still in Derby shake-up
Henderson perfectly happy with Tent
Regal leads the way in Imperial
6 March 2014McNamara in 'excellent spirits'
Codd snapped up for Sea
Farm National bid in the balance
Byron all set for Aussie challenge
Ayr takes precautions
Bridgwater salutes unsung hero
Murtagh watches on at Lingfield
Mullins retains Fly supporting cast
Bittar welcomes bill amendments
Fenton cleared for Festival runners
Trip concerns sway McCoy to Fishers
Regal vies for Imperial rule
Mullins quintet in Supreme mix
Arkle has Champagne sparkle
Rizeena given dual Guineas options
5 March 2014Bailey praying for rain
Cee Bee supplemented for Champion
Sherwood leaning towards Bartlett
Module to take Queen Mother test
Cee Bee supplemented for Champion
Farr closes in on Winter repeat
Cirrus satisfies Barande-Barbe
Oscar teed up for Bumper raid
Tent 'sound' after injury scare
Sparrow in full flight
Seven shooting straight for Aintree
BHA soothes Mullins security fears
Moore frets over Sea Winter run
Hopes high for Alderwood return
Bolger to make late Gilgamboa call
Nay Never could be a Jersey boy
Guard gallops into record books
Cirrus fourth on Chantilly return
Security on Mullins' mind
Crecy takes Treve pacemaking role
More Of That ride up for grabs
Parade set to swerve Cheltenham
Upbeat Henderson monitoring Tent
Tea team not expecting miracles
4 March 2014Lad aiming to lift Wulfruna prize
Weld waits on Vigil call
Sherwood facing Dan deliberation
Coup was "satisfying", says Curley
Walsh: Annie can go the distance
Hughes at ease with Colonel
Wincanton switch for Artillery
Milan set for hurdles outing
Avenue back on road to Sandown
Fontwell abandons Wednesday card
Saviour likely to miss season
No World bid for Monksland
Braithwaite seeking Dream success