My Drogo’s trainer Dan Skelton insists he will not shy away from a potential clash with Bob Olinger at Cheltenham on Saturday.
The handler has been targeting the bearrene.com Novices’ Chase with his charge since the Grade One-winning hurdler fluffed his lines on his fencing bow at Prestbury Park last month.
My Drogo came down at the second-last fence that day with his only opponent looking held, handing the race to Gin On Lime, who almost fell too.
Her trainer Henry de Bromhead is represented by dual Grade One winner Bob Olinger, who made no such mistake on his chasing debut at Gowran last month, coming home a smooth six-and-a-half-length winner.
Skelton has no intention of deviating from his initial plan, even if that means an early clash with Ireland’s leading novice hope.
He said: “We’re running – it’s as simple as that. It’s our only entry, that’s what we were always planning on doing and that’s where we’re going.
“If we happen to meet Bob Olinger, it’s earlier than expected, but it happens.”
Conditions could be key to Hunters Call’s could attempt to become the oldest horse to win the Unibet International Hurdle, one of the feature events on Saturday’s card.
Trainer Olly Murphy would seriously consider running the 11-year-old in the Grade Two contest over an extended two miles if the race cut up or the ground was very soft.
Three 10-year-olds – Birds Nest (in 1980), Relkeel (1999) and My Tent Or Yours (2017) – have won the race since it was first run in 1963.
Hunters Call overcame a 249-day absence to win a handicap hurdle in good style over nearly two and a half miles at Bangor last month.
“We’ll just see what the weather does. Dropping back to two miles probably isn’t ideal, but if the ground was very soft I’d certainly think about running him,” said Murphy.
“He’s in good form. It’s not easy now with the mark he’s got aged 11, turning 12, but we’ll certainly look at it.
“I don’t know how many will run. If it cuts up, I’d definitely take my chance but at his age I didn’t think he’d be running in an International Hurdle.”
Last year’s winner Song For Someone, trained by Tom Symonds, features among nine entries as does David Pipe’s Adagio and Sceau Royal from Alan King’s stable.
There are two potential Irish raiders – Henry de Bromhead’s Ballyadam and the Paul Hennessy-trained Heaven Help Us – while Fusil Raffles was also confirmed for the Racing Post Gold Cup on the same card. Guard Your Dreams and Wilde About Oscar complete the list.
Murphy could let Barony Legends line-up in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over three miles after the five-year-old made a winning debut over the smaller obstacles at Lingfield six weeks ago.
“I don’t think he’d be badly wrong in the weights. I’ll have a look at it. He’s not a bad horse and he could well run,” said the Stratford handler.
“He’s a horse that will stay, so the trip will not inconvenience him.”
The 10 entries are headed by Charles Byrnes’ Irish raider Blazing Khal, the Paul Nicholls-trained Gelino Bello and Evan Williams’ Current Mood, who were first, second and third respectively over two miles and five furlongs at Cheltenham four weeks ago.