Owner Terry Warner believes Rooster Booster will have to topple Irish runner Back In Front if he is to reclaim his Smurfit Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham tomorrow.
The 11-year-old grey won the extended two-mile showpiece in 2003 and was a five-length second behind Hardy Eustace last season.
He has yet to win a race this campaign and was last seen when second to Self Defense in the Agfa Hurdle.
But Warner feels the Philip Hobbs-trained veteran has sound each-way claims.
“I’m looking forward to it. The horse is in very, very good form but he is an 11-year-old now and that must count against him, I suppose,” he said today.
“Being realistic, if he ran into third or fourth place I would be delighted. If he’s on a good day and the race is run to suit him, which I think it will be, he would have a chance.”
Rooster Booster has made the running on two occasions this season, but he has shown his best form when held up and Warner expects big-race pilot Richard Johnson to drop him again tomorrow.
“He will be definitely be dropped out tomorrow and I would hope he will be still in behind, but challenging, when jumping the last,” he explained.
“The only way he can really win it is with a late finish.”
The Irish runners have dominated the Champion Hurdle betting for some time with Hardy Eustace currently topping the market.
Warner believes Dessie Hughes’ contender will have to settle for the runner-up spot this year as he rates the Edward O’Grady-trained Back In Front a likely winner.
“I think Back In Front will be the one, with last year’s winner in second. I don’t really fancy Harchibald as I don’t think he will go up the hill and I wouldn’t be worried about him tomorrow,” he added.
“Essex could be anything and he was a good winner of the Newbury race but I think Back In Front is the one to beat.
“It probably wouldn’t be the most unlikely outcome if the Irish filled the first five places.”