Tom Scudamore is confident there is further improvement to come from Adagio, who he believes has an “outstanding chance” of striking gold in the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.
The David Pipe-trained four year old will bid to enhance his Unibet Champion Hurdle credentials by providing the Pond House Stables trainer with his second success in the Grade Two - 14 years after Osana secured the 2007 renewal.
Adagio established himself as one of the leading juveniles last season after claiming the Grade One Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow before finishing second in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and the Doom Bar Anniversary 4 Y O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree.
And while horses can often struggle to step out of the juvenile ranks, Adagio acquitted himself well on his return when finding only West Cork too strong at Cheltenham last month in the Grade Three Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.
With that run under his belt Scudamore believes the Bryan Drew and Professor Caroline Tisdall-owned gelding can take another step forward by adding his name to the roll of honour in the extended two mile prize.
He said: “I’ve not sat on him since he ran so well at Cheltenham in the Greatwood which was a big run off top weight.
“He loves Cheltenham around both the Old Course and the New Course, which we are on this time.
“He improved all last season and his last run suggests he seems to be getting better. I’d like to think he has an outstanding chance in the International.
“He has still got to prove it again to make it up into a Champion Hurdle contender but he took a massive step in the right direction stepping out of juvenile company for the first time last time out.
“I’d like to think the way he is going forward there is no reason why he can’t take another step forward, but the proof will be in the pudding.
“It is always hard for a juvenile stepping out of that company. Some don’t cope with it and some do and he clearly has done.”
Adagio made a winning British debut at Warwick just over 12 months ago, but Scudamore admits that at that time he did not expect him to be lining up in the Triumph Hurdle in March.
He explained: “I thought at that stage (when he won at Warwick) that he was a nice horse that I would have imagined we were probably thinking more as a Fred Winter horse than a Triumph Hurdle one.
“After his first run at Cheltenham when he got beaten, the way he improved in such a short space of time suggested that he then might be a Triumph Hurdle horse and there was no reason not to go down that route.
“Winning the Grade One at Chepstow was the highlight last season, though he ran a cracking race at Cheltenham in the Triumph Hurdle.
“He ran well at Aintree but I don’t think he was at his best there as it was a short turnaround after Cheltenham.
“He had an interrupted preparation before Cheltenham and the fact he ran so well both there and at Aintree is a great testament to the horse.”
With the position of flag bearer at Pipe’s Pond House Stables seemingly up for grabs, Scudamore feels Adagio has the potential to occupy the role for years to come if continuing his progression.
He said: “Every yard needs a flagship horse and Adagio is going that way but David has lots of nice horses coming through.
“All last year he kept on growing and he is a strong looking individual at the best of times. To me he seems stronger - everyone often says that about their horses but it is very much the case for Adagio.
“The owners have been great for the yard over the years and the yard has been great for them. They have had a lot of success together with Moon Racer, Un Temps Pour Tout and Champers On Ice and Adagio looks like being next on the taxi rank.”
Before Adagio takes to the track at Cheltenham on Saturday stablemate Siruh Du Lac could attempt to give Scudamore another big race winner in the Grade Three Racing Post Gold Cup Handicap Chase earlier on the card.
The Turgeon gelding made a satisfactory comeback over hurdles at Cheltenham in October having missing almost all of last season when meeting with a setback following his first fence departure in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
Scudamore added: “I imagine he will be left in the race on Monday but I’m not sure if he runs there yet or not. He picked up an injury after the Paddy Power last season which was unfortunate.
“He had a good comeback run over hurdles in October on what was his first proper run in nearly two years. It was nice to get him back on track.
“He is a very classy individual and all the signs at home are that he has not lost any of his ability.
“I just hope the horse gets a clear run of things as he is very classy. He has had a pop over fences at home and has done all we’ve asked of him.”