Tom Taaffe is hoping 2005 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Kicking King can get his season back on track in the Star “Best For Racing Coverage” Chase at Punchestown on Thursday.
The 10-year-old suffered a tendon injury later that year and was off the track for over two years until returning last season.
Kicking King seemed to retain plenty of ability when placed on two of his three starts last season but he only made it as far as the third fence on his reappearance at Gowran Park.
However, Taaffe has been very pleased with the subsequent progress of his stable star and is hoping he can bounce back.
“He seems in great form and I just want him to get himself back on track,” said the County Kildare handler.
“These four-runner races can often be tricky affairs and it is going to be very heavy ground so it will take some getting.
“I think my horse is fit enough and I just want him to run a proper race. If that means winning that’s great and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
“He has plenty of options for his next race. There is the James Nicholson Chase at Down Royal (November 1) and he qualifies for a race at Thurles on November 6.
“We’ll obviously be thinking about the John Durkan Chase (December 7) as well so there are plenty of races around for him.”
Another Gold Cup hero in War Of Attrition is set to make his first start since December 2006 having also been hit by injury.
The three-time Grade One winner will be ridden by Davy Russell for the first time following the retirement of regular pilot Conor O’Dwyer, but trainer Mouse Morris does not envisage this being a problem.
“Obviously there are just the four runners but I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing as we wouldn’t want to make the running on him,” said the trainer.
“He has been off the track for a long time and if he finishes in the first four I’d be happy. The main thing is he comes back in one piece.
“Davy has been down schooling him so he knows him well enough and he is a top jockey so that won’t be a problem.
“The heavy ground probably isn’t ideal but you have to just put up with it.”
The field is completed by Watson Lake, who is having his first run since April 2007, and Supreme Mover.