Willie Mullins is considering next month's John Durkan Memorial Chase as a starting point for his exciting prospect Sir Des Champs.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned six-year-old is ante-post favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup after going through his novice season unbeaten, winning at the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals in the spring.
However, his Gold Cup credentials would be given an early test if Mullins opted to go to Punchestown on December 9 as the hugely talented Flemenstar is heading in that direction too, after making a winning return in Sunday's Fortria Chase.
"I imagine we are gearing this year towards the Gold Cup. He'll probably start off in the John Durkan and he's entered in the King George, but he'll be entered in Leopardstown (the Lexus Chase) at Christmas, too," said Mullins.
The champion trainer believes Sir Des Champs' biggest asset heading into this season is that he is so settled, something that can prove crucial in long-distance chases.
"He's a lovely big horse, he's built to carry 12 stones over three miles, which is ideally what you want in a chaser," Mullins told At The Races.
"I think the key to him is that he's so relaxed. I've never seen him at full strength or full speed, he just does what he has to do. That's just the way he is I think.
"We'll just plot a course as it comes between now and March. There are various races we can go for, but we'll see how he gets through his first race and then plan the second one.
"I don't like having a map the whole way out, we'll take each day as it comes, because you don't know what's going to happen from one day to the next.
"You might have to change plans, the horse might get sick, he might get lame, all sorts of things can happen, which is why I prefer to take it one race at a time."
24 April 2017Fozzy Stack to pitch Diamond Fields into Athasi Stakes at Naas
John Gosden takes aim at Epsom Derby Trial with Cracksman
Cheltenham Festival hero Penhill primed for Punchestown prize
Charlie Hills has Ascot in mind for Mootaharer
Muntazah earmarked by Owen Burrows for Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown
Mighty Missile hits the target in new military race at Wincanton
Torcedor foils Order Of St George in Vintage Crop Stakes
Vociferous Marina makes all the noise in Salsabil Stakes triumph
Too Familiar impresses for Johnny Murtagh on debut at Navan
Khukri continues hot streak for trainer-of-the-moment Jessica Harrington
Newmarket experience will stand Eminent in good stead - Martyn Meade
Nicky Henderson wary of late title charge by Paul Nicholls
Un De Sceaux the headline act on day one of Punchestown
Magical Memory gearing up for Duke Of York comeback
23 April 2017Injury forces dual Classic heroine La Cressonniere into retirement
Crimean Tatar team consider Yorkshire Cup mission
Nico de Boinville released from hospital after Scottish National fall
Michael Halford and Shane Foley on the double at Limerick
Colin Keane lands another treble at Limerick
'Great thrill' for William Haggas as exciting Call To Mind wins for the Queen
Vicente boosts title hopes for Paul Nicholls with Scottish National repeat
Impressive Barney Roy foils Dream Castle in Greenham Stakes
Straightforward success for Dabyah in Fred Darling at Newbury
Seamie Heffernan happy with Order Of St George for Vintage Crop test at Navan
Ruby Walsh feels Willie Mullins requires a miracle to win trainers' title
22 April 2017Nico de Boinville taken to hospital for assessment on neck injury
Muntahaa digs deep for John Porter success at Newbury
Annie Power in foal to Derby hero Camelot
Bacchus back with a bang at Newbury
Shutter Speed and Gracious Diana boost Oaks hand for John Gosden
Ayr double helps Paul Nicholls continue strong finish to jumps season
John Gosden takes aim at Newbury prize with classy Dabyah
Order Of St George flies the Ballydoyle flag in Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan
Midterm gets back to work in John Porter Stakes at Newbury
Dream Castle follows Frankel route in Greenham Stakes at Newbury
Premier Bond given licence to thrill in Scottish Grand National at Ayr
21 April 2017John Gosden fillies in Oaks frame after impressing at Newbury
Shutter shows speed to make winning return at Newbury
Gold Town strikes it rich at Newbury
Praise for 'genius' Paul Moloney after jockey retires from the saddle
Darley announces death of star sire Cape Cross
Williams pays tribute to horseman Moloney as the jockey announces retirement
Davy Russell handed five-day ban after Cheltenham victory
Martyn Meade delighted as Frankel's son Eminent stakes strong Classic claims
Annie Power and Nichols Canyon give Willie Mullins strong hand in Stayers Hurdle
Sizing John set to continue dream run for Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power
Pingshou added to Champion Novice field at Punchestown
Brando proves the star turn in Abernant
Mix And Mingle makes successful reappearance at Newmarket
Owen Burrows keen on Talaayeb Classic claims following Newmarket spin
Charlie Appleby considers Chester charge with Folkswood