Philip Hobbs’ charge won the Arkle last season but has endured an interrupted campaign this term, unseating Richard Johnson in the Haldon Gold Cup on his reappearance and missing the Peterborough Chase due to an unsatisfactory scope.
He finished third in the King George on Stephen’s Day, his first run over three miles, yet that performance still left Hobbs scratching his head.
“I think he’s got a lot to prove as yet,” said Hobbs.
“His runs in the spring last year were a big improvement and we were pleased with his comeback in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter, even though he unseated.
“The only disappointing thing in the King George was he’s normally a horse who jumps and travels very well and he didn’t do either, although he stayed on all right.
“The finishing position was satisfactory but throughout the race he didn’t nearly perform as well as normal and we’re hoping that he maybe wasn’t quite A1 — although we wouldn’t have run him if we didn’t think he was.
“The (Gold Cup) trip is a bit of a concern but he’s a better horse on good ground, which is likely at Cheltenham, although finding it before then is the problem.
“He also has a slight inclination to jump slightly to his right, he doesn’t lug right during the race. “But, having said that, it was a very good performance in the Arkle so it’s a minor disadvantage.
“You would want everything in your favour for a Gold Cup, though.
“The Ryanair is definitely an option and I’d very much like to run him beforehand as that will tell us which direction we are going to go.
“He has three options. The Argento at Cheltenham, the Aon (Denman) Chase at Newbury or the Ascot Chase over two-five,” said Hobbs.