Pipe’s seven-year-old has been in great form this season winning his three starts over fences in good style and he is held in high regard by his trainer.
“This is our best hope of a festival winner. He’s a seriously good horse who has done everything we asked of him. Since he took up jumping his only defeat was at last year’s festival where he fell in the Albert Bartlett,” said Pipe .
Kings Palace was strongly fancied for last year’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle but his supporters were left disappointed when he weakened coming up the homestraight before falling at the last when out of contention.
Lightly raced for his age, Kings Palace has progressed into an exciting novice chaser and he still remains largely unexposed over fences with further progression expected as he gains experience.
Pipe added: “This season he has taken well to novice chasing, winning all three races.
“The RSA will be different, as they go a quicker pace, but if he runs as we know he can, then he should be a big player.”
Bookmakers make Kings Palace a 5-1 joint second favourite for the RSA alongside another exciting novice Coneygree, whose trainer is still pondering over a Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup challenge. The market is headed by Gigginstown House Stud’s Don Poli, who is 4-1 for the big race.
Philip Hobbs is set to rely on Wishfull Thinking in the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham with Menorah set to wait for Aintree in April.
Menorah is marginally preferred in the betting to Wishfull Thinking but Hobbs believes that on balance Menorah has not performed to his best around Cheltenham and is prepared to wait until the Grand National meeting with the ten-year-old.
Wishfull Thinking, owned like Menorah by Grahame and Diana Whateley, is a 25-1 chance for the Ryanair Chase and started the season in scintillating form by winning the Betfred-sponsored Old Roan Chase and Peterborough Chase before being pulled up in the William Hill King George VI Chase last time out.
Hobbs said: “At the moment it is more likely Wishfull Thinking will run [at Cheltenham] and Menorah will wait for Aintree. It’s not written in stone and if something happened to Wishfull Thinking we might change our mind.
“Wishfull Thinking has better form round Cheltenham than Menorah. Although Menorah is a festival winner he has had four runs over fences with only one decent and the other three moderate. It probably makes more sense to go to Aintree where he runs better.”
Meanwhile Richard Lee insists there are no plans to retire veteran chaser Victory Gunner despite him failing to finish at Lingfield yesterday.
“He needed the rain that arrived at the track half an hour later. Although the ground was heavy, it was gluey ground and he can’t handle that and never has done,” said Lee.
“He is absolutely fine and there are no plans to retire him as he loves the job. It was just one of those things.”