Tom Scudamore's faith in Grands Crus is undiminished as he looks forward to riding the ante-post favourite in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
Scudamore guided the seven-year-old grey to each of his three victories over fences last season and forgives him an under-par performance in the RSA Chase at the Festival in March.
"I'm looking forward to it. I had a sit on him last week. He's in good order. It's going to be a tough, competitive race, but I'm very happy with him and wouldn't swap him for anything," he said.
"From an early stage he wasn't his normal self in the RSA, but he wouldn't be the first horse to bounce back from that race. I've got maximum belief in him and hopefully he'll show it. It's a cracking race, but that's why the Paddy Power and the Hennessy are the two winter classics before the King George. They are great races to win and I hope we can do it."
Scudamore is seeking the first success in this prestigious handicap chase which his father, Peter, won in 1988 on Pegwell Bay. Grands Crus' trainer David Pipe saddled Great Endeavour to victory 12 months ago to open his account in a race his father, Martin, dominated for so long with eight victories.
The present incumbent at Pond House is simply hoping for a smooth run in the race, saying: "He's well, but it's a very hot and competitive race. With luck in running, hopefully he'll be thereabouts."
Hunt Ball was last season's big success story, rising a staggering 88lb in the ratings as he won seven races including the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase at the Festival. He was beaten in his last start, but that was in the Grade One Betfred Bowl at Aintree, where he was third to Follow The Plan.
Trainer Keiran Burke said: "I'm a bit nervous, but I've done all my work now and it's down to the horse and jockey on the day. Hunt Ball is a very laid-back horse and you have to make him work. He has been back in a while following his summer break, as we didn't want to get him fit too quickly.
"The Paddy Power Gold Cup is a hot handicap chase and you have to be ready for a race like that. He has had a racecourse gallop and lots of schooling. He is a bigger and stronger horse this year, having grown a little bit over the summer. Hopefully, he has improved, too.
"Aintree came quickly after Cheltenham. It was the end of a long season and I think he was just a bit tired. We won't know if last season has left its mark until he runs on Saturday. I don't think it has - he feels brilliant."
21 December 2014Hanlon hoping Cyclone strikes
Milan primed for Chepstow return
Henderson pleased with big guns
Mulholland serves up Master-class
Bayan bags big Ascot prize
Broadway proves a show-stopper
Three Long Walks for super Sivola
Queen wears Listed crown
Nicholls strikes with Saint
Sceaux puts in impressive show
Silvi the star turn in King George
20 December 2014Sceaux puts in impressive show
Geraghty enthused by Bobs work
Walsh pain at Vautour defection
Billy puffing his chest out again
Master back in the spotlight
Grugy in line to start cantering
Newland seeks more from Re
Prize money boost in HRI initiative
Zig zips to impressive victory
New steroids policy delayed
Serge states Supreme case
Exciting Sceaux out at Fairyhouse
Firebird skips National service
19 December 2014Martin readying big guns
Hobbs on Garde at Ascot
Fry excited by Activial chance
The New One in Haydock return
Reve camp not expecting a hat-trick
King issues Chatez Triumph warning
Bolger searching for Mossey key
King weighs up Karezak options
Henderson hoping Bobs makes Lexus
Simonsig camp play the long game
In-form Mole buries Exeter rivals
Sedgefield hit with heavy fine
Star names check in for Ryanair
Bobs revved up for Lexus repeat
Knott disqualified for three years
Geraghty braced for power Serge
Geraghty excited by Josses return
Activial stars in Ladbroke field
18 December 2014Alvarado back for National service
Winner given Lexus go-ahead
Cheltenham dreams for King's Zero
Sivola bids for Long Walk hat-trick
Power 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