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."
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