Nick Mitchell is out to cap his first season back in the training ranks with a Cheltenham Festival winner next week.
Best known for his handling of prolific top-class chaser The Listener, Mitchell relinquished his training licence at the end of the 2018-19 campaign.
But with the backing of owner Syd Hosie, he resumed his training career from a yard in Dorset in October and has a genuine chance of striking gold in the Cotswolds next week with exciting novice chaser Lieutenant Rocco.
Formerly with Colin Tizzard, the six-year-old ran well on his first three starts over fences for Mitchell before opening his account with an impressive display at Ffos Las last month.
Lieutenant Rocco is entered in the Ultima Handicap Chase, for which he is towards the top of the market, as well as the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase and the Marsh Novices’ Chase.
Mitchell said: “We’re leaning towards the Ultima, but he’s going to be confirmed for that and the Brown Advisory. We’ll be taking him out of the Marsh.
“It will depend on the weather, as much as anything – that goes for any sort of participation at Cheltenham, to be honest. There’s rain forecast every day until next Tuesday, so we’ll just have to see what comes. For him, the more the better really.
“We’ll also wait and see who gets there.
“Fingers crossed, everything has gone smoothly. He had his final tough bit of work (on Tuesday morning), which went very well, and Daryl Jacob will be coming down to school him on Friday.
“I’ve been ticking off every day for six weeks now. All we want is to get there and then let him do what he can do.”
Mitchell, who trains a string of just 17 horses, is hoping to be doubly represented at Cheltenham, with Milanford considered a “live each-way” player in the Kim Muir.
He admits his return to training has gone better than he could have expected, adding: “It’s unthinkable really – I’m very privileged.
“To be hopefully going to Cheltenham with two gorgeous, staying novice chasers is fantastic.
“We’ve got 17 horses in training at the moment and we actually have an open licence now to train for other people, rather than only being a private trainer.”