Paul Nicholls’ seven-year-old lost his air of invincibility last season, despite winning the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury in February.
He was beaten on his seasonal debut at Cheltenham, after which he was found to have had a problem with a rib, and was lacklustre when attempting to defend his crown at the Festival in March.
“Last year he seemed to run a good race and then one not so good, but this time the lads in the yard say he feels better in himself,” said owner Clive Smith.
“He looks very good this year and hopefully he’ll have a better time of it. We had the problem with his rib after his first run which set him back and I suppose the training was a bit different after a month on the horse-walker.
“I suppose interrupted training could have upset him a bit.
“He did run very well in the Game Spirit but then he didn’t really feel like it at Cheltenham.
“He starts on November 20 in the Amlin Chase at Ascot over two-miles-three and we’ll see if he can really stay further than two miles,” he told Racing UK.
* Richard Hannon junior has raised the intriguing possibility of title-chasing rider Richard Hughes missing the Breeders’ Cup meeting in his quest for championship honours this week.
Hughes is scheduled to ride the Richard Hannon-trained Paco Boy against the mighty Goldikova in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Saturday, while he is also pencilled in for the mount on Tale Untold on Friday’s Churchill Downs card.
It had been thought his last day to make an impression on long-time leader Paul Hanagan would be Thursday, before jetting off to Kentucky. The Flat season comes to a close in Britain on Saturday at Doncaster.
Hannon, son and assistant to his father, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think there’s every chance (he might stay), this means more to him I think - Breeders’ Cup horses don’t come along very often, but I think a shot at the title probably means he might well stay, certainly for Friday’s racing.
“He won’t be in this position again I don’t think because Ryan (Moore) has missed a lot of this year, there’s no time like the present so for that reason I think he might well stay and have a go at the title.”
Hanagan went five clear in the race for the title with a double at Wolverhampton yesterday.