Ferdy Murphy is keeping his fingers crossed for a dry spell of weather as he prepares Divers for a return to the scene of his greatest triumph.
The nine-year-old won the Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2011 and returned to the track to finish a creditable fourth in the Byrne Group Plate last term. That two-mile-five-furlong heat is his target once again this term.
Divers' preparation has been far from ideal, with heavy ground limiting him to just three starts all winter, but Murphy was satisfied with his recent third at Musselburgh on good ground and believes he could be on handy mark of 135, some 7lb lower than last year.
The Yorkshire handler said: "The Byrne Group Plate is the target for him and hopefully we'll get a bit of decent ground. It's been a terrible winter and the owners were happy to wait for decent ground and prepare him for the Festival.
"We gave him a run at Musselburgh, which helped, and he seems to be in good form. He has dropped down the weights a little, but he's on a nice mark now - an attractive mark, I would say - and he should get in the race off that."
De Boitron is also entered in the Grade Three heat, but a largely indifferent campaign has seen him drop to a rating of 130 and Murphy may instead direct him to the three-mile JLT Specialty Chase.
"De Boitron might not get in the Byrne Group Plate but he's entered in the JLT race, too. We will look at the options nearer the time, but it may be the JLT for him," he said.
"Riguez Dancer is entered in the JLT, but I think the Kim Muir is the race for him. He's dropped down the weights a bit, but he wants better ground. Nico de Boinville rode him last time and got on well with him, but I'd think he will be required elsewhere, so we'll probably bring an Irish amateur over for the ride.
"Poker De Sivola is very well and fresh (ahead of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase). He finished sixth in the race a couple of years ago, but we were using that as a prep for something else to sweeten him up.
"We had been looking to the Grand National with him but he won't get in this year, so this is the target. The plan is the cross-country race and then we'll put him away for the year and work towards the Becher in November and then, hopefully, the National. He's a classy horse."
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