Donald McCain believes the performance of Cinders And Ashes in the Stanjames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday week will determine his credentials for Cheltenham in March.
The five-year-old, who is currently 9-4 favourite with the race sponsors, concluded last season with a tenacious victory over another Newcastle contender, Darlan, in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
"He's doing grand at the minute and looks well going into the Fighting Fifth," said McCain.
"I think he is a very good horse and I just hope he can get up to win, but it'll be tough. I have entered him because he won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Festival, so he has every right to be there.
"However, looking further ahead, whether he can win a Champion Hurdle or not, I just don't know yet. We'll see at Newcastle."
The Cheshire-based trainer is bidding for a third Fighting Fifth success in three years, after winning the last two renewals with the Tim Leslie-owned pair, Peddlers Cross and Overturn.
McCain said: "Overturn is in good order at the minute and came back (from his chasing debut) looking well. I was very pleased with his performance at Sandown.
"Eventually, we will be looking for the best two-mile novice chase races for him, but he needs to get some more experience first.
"Peddlers Cross is also grand at the minute and in class work now. He isn't ready to run yet, but he is coming along nicely. There is no reason why he shouldn't regain his past form because he is a very good horse.
"We aren't sure whether he will be best suited to two miles or three this year. We'll have to wait and see how he performs throughout the season."
22 October 2014Gosden a Fan of Newmarket scorer
Northern aces face off in Cumbria
December date for Balding memorial
Murphy plagued by shoulder injury
Dynaste charts direct Haydock route
O'Brien outlines Breeders' plans
Deputy outgunned at Fontwell
Wetherby-bound Taquin to duck Power
Whisky chasing Power spoils
High hopes for Adelaide run
Burke maps out Odeliz targets
Present sights set on Power prize
Gilgamboa waits on ground
New category for all-weather champs
Moviesta has sales date
National aim for O'Neill star
Cheltenham on Ginge agenda
Lewis eyeing Dubai success
Henderson handed Ascot role
Dandino misses Cup date
Panther given Breeders' go-ahead
Plain sailing for perfect Storm
Big Easy sets sail for Open fixture
Hall monitored for Giant Bolster
Stomachion in November frame
Hughes revels in 'sweet' success
BHA moves to address small fields
Connell turns to Heskin
Integral to race on next year
21 October 2014Storm breezes to Exeter victory
Moore concedes title to Hughes
Meade maps out gameplan for stars
Pele poised to tackle Hennessy
O'Neill sure of Taquin redemption
Heron seeking Great prize
Court to go on Trial
Saviour blow for Skelton
Dan makes chase debut
Moore waits on Grugy decision
O'Neill outlines That choices
Conn possible for Auction bid
Power team weigh up options
Bangor cancel schooling card
No rushing back for Long Run
Dynaste leads Old Roan contenders
Grands Crus retired
Exciting Berlais heads to Chepstow
Force handed Hong Kong mission
Park favourite for Trophy hunt
Al Kazeem team eye Hong Kong trip
Commemorative bound for Breeders'
Slade eyeing victorious swansong
20 October 2014Chelmsford City handed 58 fixtures
Alderwood to take two-mile test
Dynaste leads Old Roan contenders
Hennessy aim for Clouds
Fiesolana on Breeders' trail
High-class possibilities for Trophy
Chelmsford City handed 57 fixtures
French option for Maarek
Billy back for chasing bow
Judge to bid for Breeders' glory
Pipe mulls Moon target
High hopes for Holywell
Judge in Breeders' frame
Hill stars for Stoute and Moore
Gabriel lifts Garnet for Deegan
New One back with a win
Light career hangs in balance
Stars shines on hurdling debut
King big guns ready to start
Tullius camp consider options
Doyle unlikely to appeal Ascot ban
Mullins prepares formidable team
19 October 2014New One breezes to victory
Lavelle has Becher plan for Lodge
Riches heading on road north
Down Royal plan for Tiger
New makes Kempton return
Panther hunting Canadian prize