Always highly regarded, the Trevor Hemmings-owned eight-year-old came of age in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November, putting Lambourn-based Sherwood firmly back in the spotlight.
This Grade Two race, a notable Gold Cup trial, has been his first preference ever since and a big performance would book his ticket for the Festival feature, although Sherwood is not getting carried away just yet.
“He hasn’t missed a day since the Hennessy and is exactly where I want him to be,” said Sherwood.
“He’s done exactly what I have wanted him to do. Leighton (Aspell) came in and schooled him earlier this week and all went well.
“As you’d expect, winning a race like the Hennessy took a fair bit out of him, so we’ve given him plenty of time.
“When you have a horse rated 161, what do you do? You’ve got to test the water in a race like this.
“I’m well aware he’s got to give 8lb to Smad Place, who was giving us 4lb at Newbury, but the form of the Hennessy keeps getting franked and it did again when Willie’s horse (Djakadam) waltzed away with the Thyestes.
“If he goes and runs well, then the obvious thing is to then target the Gold Cup, but you’ve got to take it one step at a time.
“I’ve been around long enough now to know not to get carried away and my feet are firmly stuck on the ground as yet.”
Smad Place gets weight from all of his rivals after finishing a slightly disappointing fifth in the Hennessy.
Narrowly beaten in the RSA Chase in March, if he fails to get involved on these terms trainer Alan King will have to lower his sights slightly.
“Smad Place runs in the Grade Two BetBright Chase at Cheltenham. The Hennessy took a lot out of him, so we have given him time to get over it,” said King on www.alankingracing.co.uk
“In hindsight, I should have given him a prep race for Newbury because he got tired up the straight, but it was still a smashing run.
“He has been placed at three Festivals and always runs well around there, and this has been his target for some time.
“He worked well on our grass gallop last weekend, and we are very happy with him.”
One horse who comes to life at Cheltenham and specifically at this time of year is David Bridgwater’s The Giant Bolster.
Punters seem to know by now that there is little point in backing him before Christmas, but he won this race 12 months ago and three years ago he won a handicap chase on this card.
Of course, his three career-best efforts have come in the last three Gold Cups where he has finished second, fourth and third.
“The Giant Bolster’s preparation has been grand and we are looking forward to it,” said Bridgwater.
“On ratings and so on, there is not a lot between them. Oliver Sherwood’s horse won the Hennessy and looks the one to beat, but then I would like to think that he thinks we are the one to beat.
“Dynaste is a very good horse, but whether he wants further than three miles in soft ground is debatable. It looks like it could be a very exciting race.”
Paul Nicholls already has two Gold Cup horses in Silviniaco Conti and Sam Winner, but he may have a third if Black Thunder performs well.
He beat Many Clouds at Haydock last year and was still going well enough in the RSA Chase when he fell on the second circuit, leaving his part-owner Barry Fulton expecting a bold show.
“I think he’s in as good a form as we’ve ever had him,” said Fulton.