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."
8 December 2013Bright start for New Dawn
Twin lights up Hilly Way
Twin lights up Hilly Way
Durkan stroll for Arvika
Unioniste has Lexus aim
New One heading to International
Drowne in hospital after fall
Baby in running for Warwick
Moore sets sights on Kempton
Ex-Oxx ace Mofeed lifts Cup
Cloud and Lantern sunk in Mile
Kanaloa sizzles in Sprint
Dominant shocks The Fugue in Vase
Turner back in business
Faugheen in impressive strike
Flemenstar out of John Durkan
Unioniste claims Listed prize
Grugy great in Tingle Creek
V for victory for Henderson
Chance best in Becher thriller
Hinterland reigns in Henry VIII
Mullins strikes with Gitane
7 December 2013V for victory for Henderson
Twinlight out to show the Way
Wyck primed for big Aintree run
Dandino and Rock miss Vase run
Bec puzzler for Lavelle
Moore's Vino is vintage stuff
Mullins sets sights on Navan
Captain taking charge for Henderson
George plots Aintree gold rush
King out to reign in Henry VIII
Newcastle in talks over AW track
Sir champing at bit for Durkan date
Baby on board for Becher
6 December 2013Carberry sidelined for weekend
Dunaden 'back to his best'
Glance sights fixed on Cup glory
Strawbridge coy over Cloud future
Sire out to profit from Sacre blow
Queen awarded ROA honour
Three-month ban for Arnold
Contrite Butler must 'rebuild life'
Nicholls watching ground for Roque
Topper tests Future waters
Murphy hit by nine-day ban
Big field for Becher
Sacre forced out of Sandown return
Cadeaux team enjoying the ride
Lantern burning bright once more
5 December 2013Rasen survives wind scare
Festival switch for Mares' race
Sacre out of Tingle Creek
No luck for Jwala in Sprint draw
Aigles well ahead of fourth Cup bid
Rasen to check on wind
Butler considers ban response
Court team eyeing Huntingdon return
Oscar on course for Cheltenham
Cantlow in Cheltenham frame
Juddmonte "not for sale"
Noseda content with Grand journey
Cloud future hinges on Mile outcome
Road charts route towards Becher
Knight backs Somersby to shine