Connections of Exotic Dancer are hoping it will be sixth time lucky for the Jonjo O’Neill-trained gelding against Kauto Star in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup tomorrow.
Runner-up to Paul Nicholls’ ace 12 months ago, he got within half a length of him in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November.
He has recovered from a setback that had threatened his participation three weeks ago and goes for Gold under 12-times champion Tony McCoy.
“AP (McCoy) rode him in a piece of work on Friday. He was thrilled which I take as very much a positive, particularly as he’s not usually a good work horse,” said Barry Simpson, racing manager to owner Sir Robert Ogden.
“To do a piece of work which pleased AP has to be something out of the ordinary.
“He’s not had an ideal preparation but we’ve got the equal second-best chaser in Europe and we go there with a lot of enthusiasm.
“He did have a minor hiccup, but we’ve been swimming the horse a lot and we’ve got to be happy.
“Kauto Star keeps beating us and I keep saying our day will come. Whether it will be on Friday or not I don’t know.
“We’ll just keep plugging away and I’m sure that he’ll be in the shake up when they come round that final turn.”
Ogden has a second string to his bow in 2006 Royal & SunAlliance Chase winner Star De Mohaison, a stable companion of Kauto Star and Denman.
But the seven-year-old has had just the one race over hurdles at Cheltenham in January since returning from a 13-month absence.
Simpson added: “We were waiting for good ground for him which we kept missing out on. The races he should have run in, he couldn’t because the ground was wrong. And then we were very conscious of the fact that we didn’t to give him an unnecessary hard race before the Gold Cup.
“It’s not been ideal but we know he jumps, stays and acts on the track, and he’s got a top-class pilot in Barry Geraghty.
“He’s not a no-hoper but realistically we have to think he has it to prove, but that’s why he’s going there.”
A total of 14 horses are set to go to post after the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ollie Magern, who ran on Tuesday, was declared a non-runner.