Colin Tizzard is eyeing a Champion Hurdle bid with Grade 1-winning novice Elixir De Nutz, who could put his credentials on the line in Cheltenham's Unibet International Hurdle on Saturday.
Owned by Terry Warner, the enthusiastic grey won the Tolworth Hurdle in January and was a leading fancy for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival until he was ruled out due to a late setback.
He exercised at Tizzard's Dorset base on Tuesday morning and is in line to return to action in the Grade 2 International with Harry Cobden set to take the ride.
Three from four last season, Elixir De Nutz might have been chasing by now but for that injury, but Tizzard is relishing the opportunity to find out if he is good enough in what is shaping up to be a rather competitive Champion Hurdle.
The leading trainer said: "He could run at the weekend but I just want to make sure we have enough rain. He went to Newbury recently with Native River, Kilbricken Storm and Eldorado Allen and worked far better than any of them.
"We'll try to run him in the International to see if he's a Champion Hurdle horse. He's a Grade 1 winner as a novice, but we don't know if he is that level – we've got to try to find out. Something like the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton could be another option and he might be entered just in case it isn't the hottest race in the world.
"If Terry Warner wanted to go and the ground was right, we'd go somewhere, but, either way, the Champion Hurdle won't be easy."
Reflecting on the campaign-ending injury last term, Tizzard added: "He tweaked the back of his knee so we had to stop before Cheltenham and then he was late coming back in as we gave him all the time he needed. We went nice and steady so we have him for the second-half of the season.
"We couldn't get him ready early anyway and what we want him for is the spring festivals – Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown.
"I've not had a runner in the Champion Hurdle and don't think I have really had one for a trial."