David Bridgwater expects The Conditional to be even sharper in the Good Luck Hollie In Spoty Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
A Cheltenham Festival winner in March, he was placed in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury for the second successive year on his first outing since his finest hour.
Bridgwater would have preferred to have got a run into him before Newbury, so the fact he ran such a fine race in third behind Cloth Cap bodes well – especially when the trainer does not see the testing conditions as a negative.
“I know he’s favourite, but I leave things like that to the so-called experts. I just get on with the training,” he said.
“It’s going to be very testing ground, but he won’t mind it. He goes through it well and showed at Newbury that he goes on good ground, too.
“Heading to Newbury he was fit, but he wasn’t hard, race fit. He is now and if he progresses from Newbury and has a clear round then we shouldn’t be too far away, hopefully.
“He’s never run at Ascot before, but I can’t see it being a problem. There’s never a problem with things like that until there is a problem, but I don’t think there will be an issue.”
One horse who certainly has no issue with Ascot is Anthony Honeyball’s veteran Regal Encore.
He may turn 13 in a few weeks and have been competing at a high level since finishing second in the 2013 Champion Bumper to Briar Hill, but he showed first time out this season he is no back number yet.
Regal Encore was winning at Ascot for the fourth time and while he was pulled up in the Ladbrokes Trophy, that can almost be forgotten now he is back at his favourite hunting ground.
Dan Skelton’s Ardlethen was another to run in the Ladbrokes Trophy, finishing sixth, but the Alcester handler believes he will benefit for a return to a softer surface.
“I think a bit slower ground than he encountered at Newbury is better for him,” said Skelton.
“It was a nice run at Newbury. It’s a competitive race, but he goes in soft ground and has got a lower weight than others.
“I think you’ve got to give him some sort of chance, for sure.”
Other interesting contenders are Venetia Williams’ Espoir De Guye, who tries three miles for the first time, Jonjo O’Neill’s Quarenta and Sophie Leech’s French recruit Enfant Roi.