Cheltenham Festival victor Stage Star is due to make his seasonal debut at the Cotswolds track in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
The Paul Nicholls-trained gelding had a successful time of things last season, enjoying a graduation to novice chasing when banking four wins including in the Grade One Turners Novices’ Chase at the showpiece fixture in March.
After a summer break the seven-year-old is now being prepared to return to action over the same course and distance in November, where he heads the ante-post market with the sponsors at 6-1.
“We’re very happy with him and we’re hoping to run him first time out in the Paddy Power,” said Dan Downie of Owners Group, to whom Stage Star belongs.
“He’s summered really well and Paul’s been delighted with him in recent weeks, so the plan is to go to Cheltenham with him.”
Stage Star – who was also a Grade One winner as a novice hurdler – has been very effective over a trip of two and a half miles, though connections do consider him capable of stepping up in distance in time.
“We’ll just see how we go, we’ve always thought he would get further but I suppose this will tell us a bit more and we’ll go from race to race,” said Downie.
Donald McCain’s Maximilian also runs in the silks of Owners Group and he too is limbering up for a first run of the campaign after Storm Babet scuppered plans for a Carlisle debut this week.
The chestnut was a Graded-winning hurdler last term when taking the River Don before finishing second in Aintree’s Sefton, with a novice chasing campaign the plan this time around.
“He’s good, he was going to run at Carlisle on Thursday but we missed a bit of work last week because of the storm,” Downie said.
“Donald’s gallops were affected a little bit so he will run in the next couple of weeks, the plan at the minute is to go novice chasing with him.
“You’ve got to keep an open mind and be flexible but he jumps very well at home and really enjoys it, so we’d be thinking of a novice chasing campaign at the moment for him.”