Mighty Potter bids to extend his faultless chasing copybook and advertise his potential superstar quality when he goes for gold in the Turners Novices’ Chase.
Gordon Elliott’s six-year-old has won all three starts over the bigger obstacles and backed up his Drinmore success with another top-class victory in the Ladbrokes Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival, accounting for Adamantly Chosen by eight and a half lengths.
That marked him out as a possible Gold Cup horse in the making, and Elliott is full of hope heading into his biggest test yet at Cheltenham on Thursday.
Elliott said: “I don’t think you could be anything but impressed with him in Leopardstown – he looks the real thing. I loved how, coming by the line, he was only getting into top gear really.
“We won’t start leaping up and down about him yet and we’ll let him do the talking, but I wouldn’t mind having a few more like him.”
Those looking for a chink in the favourite’s armour will point to his sole visit to Prestbury Park, when pulled up behind Constitution Hill in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last March.
“He’s a big horse now, but he was every bit as big last year and gangly,” added Elliott. “If you look at the Supreme last year, he just never got into a rhythm and I think he landed on top of a hurdle and it was all over then.
“Everything is so easy to him. Even at home he’s kind of a big baby still, but he’s exciting. I couldn’t be more happy with him.
“He was never happy in the Supreme last year. He was beaten after a mile. I suppose it’s always a concern, but he’s a very relaxed horse and a year older.
“I don’t think he’s been properly opened up yet. He’s just a relentless galloper.”
A big danger to Mighty Potter would have been Banbridge, but Joseph O’Brien had voiced ground fears and he was withdrawn on Thursday morning.
Nicky Henderson saddles Balco Coastal, who won a decent novices’ handicap chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day and then chased home Gerri Colombe when narrowly defeated in the Scilly Isles at Sandown.
The Seven Barrows trainer feels the seven-year-old is an assured jumper and can be a leading player.
He said: “He didn’t do much wrong and I think there is a bit of improvement to come.
“I just wondered if he had a right good blow. I thought he’d gone and won the race, to be honest with you. I just think there is a little bit more to come. I’m not quite sure where from, but I do.
“It looks quite a good division, but I think he is entitled to take his chance.
“I just think he got outstayed at Sandown. We’ve quickened up from the bend to the second-last and it just sort of came at him again a bit.
“We might wait a bit longer. He loves being up there and he jumps very well.”
Few trainers went into the meeting in better form than champion Paul Nicholls and Stage Star, a top-class hurdler last term, has done little wrong in four starts over fences, winning three times.
His only reverse came in a Grade Two at Newbury in November, when the ground was deemed too quick and he has won twice subsequently, including at Cheltenham last time.
“He is a progressive horse and won very well the other day,” Nicholls said. “He has been a grand horse this year and won at Plumpton, making all, after Christmas, then won very nicely at Cheltenham off top-weight.
“He stayed on strong the last time and he is a progressive horse, but these are good races and you can run really well and finish third or fourth.
“Another summer on him and he will be a smart horse to go looking at better chases over here.”