Warren Greatrex believes Cole Harden will be able to do himself justice in the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day – despite airing concerns about the ground.
He will return to Prestbury Park for the first time since triumphing in the World Hurdle in March but met with defeat on his seasonal return in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
Greatrex said: “The heavy ground is not ideal, but as the race is over two and a half miles it’s not going to take him to the extreme.
“He does cope with soft ground but it doesn’t really suit his way of running.
“We’ve gone for this race over the Cleeve purely for the fact that at this time year we don’t want to be running him over three miles on that ground all the time – we want to leave plenty of petrol in the tank for when he is at his best in the spring.
“He is a very hard horse to get fit and we did everything we could with him going into Newbury, he was probably just a little less fit than we thought he was.
“Compared to last year’s run in that race, when he finished very tired, he actually run on again and the way he finished really pleased me.
“Although I would be much happier if the ground was not as soft, he has come out of that race very well and he looks great.
“He is in a much better form than this time last year.”
Nicky Henderson will be triple-handed with Whisper, Top Notch and Bobs Worth.
Whisper and Bobs Worth are dropping back in trip, with the latter reverting to hurdling after he finished sixth in the Hennessy.
Last season’s Triumph Hurdle runner-up Top Notch runs beyond two miles and one furlong for the first time in his career.
Henderson said: “They all run and they’ve all got a chance.
“We always thought stepping up in trip would suit Top Notch.
“Bobs Worth is in very good form. He’s been up that hurdling road and won at Aintree earlier this season.
“I was disappointed with Whisper last time, but he’s been in good nick and has form in soft ground and won at Ffos Las on very soft ground over hurdles.”
Virgilio has made giant strides since arriving on British shores and completed a hat-trick in facile fashion at Aintree last time.
Trainer Dan Skelton said: “The reason we are trying him in this race is that he keeps improving rapidly.
“I would not have thought when he started life handicapping of 118 that we would be ever be here running in a race like this at Cheltenham, but he deserves to take his chance.
“He has got no penalty and what will be will be. Whether he can win the Relkeel Hurdle or not, he is still one of the most improved horses in training.
“This will give us an idea where to go for the rest of the season.”
Robert Walford feels a spin over hurdles will benefit Camping Ground following his mid-race departure in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.
He said: “It was just one of those things at Huntingdon last time, but he has schooled well since and is absolutely fine.
“We thought it would do him good to have a run over hurdles and the ground at Cheltenham should be fine for him.”
Neil King reports Lil Rockerfeller in good order as he bids to follow up his recent Listed success at Sandown.
He said: “This race has been the plan since he won at Sandown.
“He run well on his debut at Cheltenham earlier this season and he has won on soft ground before.
“He likes a test of stamina and his win on soft ground at Sandown is arguably his best run to date.
“It’s going to be very tough mixing it with the big boys but he goes there in very good order.”
The eight-runner field is completed by the Rebecca Curtis-trained Aurore D’Estruval.