Cotton Mill faces his acid test ahead of the Cheltenham Festival when he makes his seasonal reappearance in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.
The six-year-old is as low as 16-1 for the Stan James Champion Hurdle, even though he has yet to run over two miles. Campaigned over further last term, Cotton Mill has his first attempt at the trip in this valuable and ultra-competitive handicap.
Trainer John Ferguson admits it is a "fact-finding mission", and hopes the horse will also come on for his first run since finding three miles too far when third to Lovcen at Aintree in April.
He had won his first three starts over jumps before veering before the second-last and unseating Denis O'Regan when leading eventual winner Simonsig in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
"He's very well and he's been in great form for a while, but we didn't want to run him on heavy ground. We're looking forward to a good run, but wouldn't be surprised if he improves for the run," said Ferguson.
"He won over a mile and a quarter on the Flat at Newmarket, so two miles over hurdles shouldn't be a problem. It's as much a fact-finding mission in that hopefully after Saturday, if all goes well, we are going to know what his optimum trip is.
"I think we found out at Liverpool that three miles is beyond him. He was going very well in the Neptune but we don't know how that would have ended up. What we are on is a fact-finding mission to establish if this is his trip.
"He won a Grade Two over two miles, five furlongs at Warwick. We know he's a nice horse over two and a half.
"It will just give us an indication as to how effective he is over the minimum trip and then we can choose what race we want at Cheltenham once we've seen how he goes on Saturday."
30 July 2014Edison out to light up Galway
Kingman all set for Sussex
Warwick to ditch Flat races
Estimate ready for Goodwood test
Showcase fixture avoids Ascot clash
Sous earmarked for Royal return
Injury woe for Hanagan
Bird ruled out of Nassau
Elleval team turn to Leopardstown
Zalty still in Galway frame
Tag recovering from Ascot exertions
Muthmir team eye Goodwood gold
Van driven out for Goodwood success
Love too much for Toormore
Cotai claims Molecomb glory
Leger hopefuls seek Gordon glory
Sennockian stars at Goodwood
Hannon aims to uphold family honour
He who would be King
29 July 2014Repeat Topaz victory for Vastonea
Eagle set for short break
Vulcanite spearheads Longsdon raid
Hughes launches double Plate bid
Estimate in Goodwood Cup field
Quick picks off Galway rivals
Lion could roar in Champion Stakes
Time out for Carpenter
Beckett considers Gesture gameplan
Pitt ponders Sir Stewards' run
Bird in full flight for Nassau
Beacon leads Hannon trio
Toormore on Goodwood mission
Star duo head Sussex field
28 July 2014PJA hits out at ERA Cosgrave case
Chopin team wait on softer ground
Options open for Approval
Pallasator states case for Ebor
Custom a cut above
Harty doubles up in Galway feature
Munich Mission impossible
Jinx on a high in France
Cox plays it cool with Kodi
Girl given Lowther target
Burke looking to Curragh
Hanagan hails Taghrooda
Toormore drops in class for Lennox
27 July 2014Beacon shines over Molecomb rivals
Miss skips Galway for Goodwood
Tag crowned queen of Ascot
Muthmir delivers in Dash
Metal proves International star
Sheikh pounces for late score
Kingman poised for showdown
Kleo hits top gear for Cumani
Dettori strikes on Osaila
Bear grills Winkfield rivals
Yorkshire Oaks target for Volume