Popular veteran Thistlecrack could make his long-awaited return to action in next month’s Marsh Hurdle at Ascot.
The Grade One contest, which is better known as the Long Walk Hurdle, is under consideration for the Colin Tizzard-trained 12-year-old, who lifted the three mile-prize back in 2015.
Despite being in the twilight of his career, Thistlecrack showed plenty of his old ability on his sole start last season, finishing second in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: “He is back in and loving life, but he is not quite ready to go yet. He is still so popular and is a real favourite in our yard.
“I think the Newbury race at the end of the month he finished second in last year is likely to come too soon as he was a bit later in.
“He might go to the Long Walk or something like that, but we just have to take it day by day with him.
Thistlecrack has not tasted victory since the last of his five Grade One victories in the 2016 King George VI Chase at Kempton – but Tizzard believes the John and Heather Snook-owned gelding still has plenty to offer.
He added: “He is not a horse that we will be putting pressure on to rush him as he is an old man and we will let him come to himself.
“He is doing everything right and is doing a lot of core fitness work on the gallops. He seems in lovely form at the moment.
“It’s only 12 months since he ran a blinder behind Paisley Park at Newbury, so the fire is still there.”
Copperhead remains on course for Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury later this month, despite failing to complete for the second race in succession on his comeback at Wetherby.
Having suffered a late fall when beaten in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, the six-year-old turned in a below-par effort on his return after pulling up in the Grade Two West Yorkshire Hurdle.
Tizzard said: “We hoped he would do a Native River and finish in the first four or five at Wetherby then go for the Ladbrokes Trophy, but it didn’t quite work out like that and as a prep it wasn’t ideal.
“We were left scratching our heads as nothing really came to light. He has got to improve on that last run, but the Ladbrokes Trophy is still on the agenda and we have just under three weeks to get him there.”