Trainer Donald McCain believes Peddlers Cross is as good as he has ever been as he aims to get his career back on track in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at next month's Cheltenham Festival.
Having returned to hurdling at the start of the current campaign, various training problems kept the eight-year-old off the track until he finished second in a jumpers' bumper at Kempton in late January.
He got back to winning ways in solid, if unspectacular, style in a conditions hurdle at Musselburgh this month and although McCain was slightly downbeat immediately afterwards, consultation with stable jockey Jason Maguire left him far happier.
Peddlers Cross had to take second billing behind Arkle-bound stable companion Overturn as McCain proudly paraded his Cheltenham-bound inmates on Tuesday, but members of the gathered press were left in no doubt about the regard in which 'Peddlers' is still held by his trainer.
McCain said: "Everyone has an opinion about him. I'd sooner have him in the yard than not, he's my superstar and it feels a bit odd not bringing him out last (to parade). We've had niggly little problems, but nothing worth talking about, he's in great nick and his work has not changed.
"He had a run round Kempton, enjoyed it and came on for it. He went to Musselburgh and I would be the first to say I expected him to be more impressive.
"I walked off to see Jason after the race and he was shocked by my outlook. He was very happy with him, he said he settled well, travelled well and jumped great. Jason was minding him up the straight. He's a very smart horse and his work is very special. He's the best work horse I've got, the best I've seen."
While the main question mark hanging over Peddlers Cross is whether he remains the horse of old, he also needs to prove he stays the World Hurdle distance of three miles.
"Will he win a World Hurdle? I haven't a clue, but I would be expecting him to be travelling very sweetly down to the second-last and what happens from there I don't know," said McCain.
"We'd love to have found out if he stays three miles before now, but with the weather and whatever else we've not been able to. There's nothing he's shown me that suggests he won't stay. He's more settled than he used to be and he will travel for a long, long way."
8 December 2016Frankie Dettori hails Abdul Kareem Musa Adam after aspiring jockey claims award
Cause for optimism for Skelton team as Toujours dominates at Warwick
Greatrex considering Festival route with La Bague Au Roi
Jim Dreaper looking forward to cross country test with Goonyella
Tizzard on weather watch for Native River's Welsh National bid
Graham Gibbons stands down after being accused of swapping Kempton sample
Petit Mouchoir and Valseur Lido on course for Christmas appearances
Tony Martin in no rush to firm up future plans for exciting Anibale Fly
O'Brien hoping home comforts bring out the best in Perfect Candidate
Supreme fancy Crack Mome opens his account at Clonmel
BHA investigating after Graham Gibbons accused of swapping Kempton sample
Taquin Du Seuil misses Cheltenham date as 16 hunt Caspian Caviar Gold
Michael Bell pleased with Hong Kong Vase draw for Big Orange
Graham Gibbons accused of swapping Kempton urine sample
Henry Brooke celebrates first winner since return to riding after injury
Ten Sixty adds up for Richard Johnson at Leicester
Jonathan Burke keen to 'draw a line under 2016' after fresh injury blow
Nicky Richards considering options for Eduard
Cole Harden pointed towards return to three miles
Leading fancy Minella Rocco taken out of Welsh National
Clondaw Warrior drops in class for Clonmel return
Eddie Harty mulling options for Drinmore hero Coney Island
Warren Greatrex eyeing Cheltenham outing with One Track Mind
7 December 2016Tony Martin in no rush to map out Heartbreak City hurdles campaign
Champers sparks Uttoxeter celebrations with winning chase bow
Peace News returns unscathed following Fairyhouse fall
Yanworth set to swerve International date in favour of Christmas challenge
Douvan heads Hilly Way dozen at Cork
Warren Greatrex issues Aloomomo warning to punters
Willie Mullins leaves big guns in John Durkan
Newbury confirm Hennessy sponsorship to end
Simply Ned on course for repeat Leopardstown bid
Colin Kidd prepares Rashaan for New Year return to action
6 December 2016Jim Best case result to be announced on Monday
Sir Anthony McCoy would split up Tizzard aces at Kempton
Joseph O'Brien biding his time with Landofhopeandglory
County Hurdle runner-up Fethard Player in line for back-end campaign
Neil Mulholland still has Festival plan for Shantou Village
No problems for Uttoxeter
Nick Alexander dominates Ayr action as Marlee Massie highlights treble
Newly-crowned champion Jim Crowley gallops away with jockey award
Fergal O'Brien sets sights on Sandown compensation for Alvarado
Gracious John stars in Lingfield treble for Egan
Ruby Walsh raises Ascot possibility for Un De Sceaux
Taquin Du Seuil tops 19 contenders hunting Caviar Gold
James Moffatt hoping Highland Lodge effort will secure National date
Many Clouds Lexus bid under serious consideration from Oliver Sherwood
Smad Place lined up for Cotswold repeat by Alan King
5 December 2016Aidan O'Brien claims Flat prize at HRI Awards
Uttoxeter forced to check due to threat of frost
Kim Bailey considers Cheltenham test for Charbel
The Last Samuri to tread a familiar path back to Aintree
Peter Maher takes double aim at Cross Country Chase
Ludlow frozen off
Oscar-winning performance delights Fergal O'Brien
Eddie Harty has long-term dreams for Coney Island after Drinmore glory
'Excellent' Josses Hill puts it all together in Peterborough Chase romp
Apple's Jade pips Vroum Vroum Mag in Hatton's Grace thriller
Prolific Airlie Beach bags Grade One glory in Royal Bond
Ar Mad in line to be supplemented for the King George at Kempton
Landofhopeandglory still unbeaten over hurdles after Fairyhouse battle
Ballyandy providing Nigel Twiston-Davies with campaign quandary
Yanworth enters International and Christmas reckoning