Trainer Paul Nolan is unsure what to expect from Noble Prince as he prepares to return to the scene of his greatest triumph for Saturday’s Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
The nine-year-old enjoyed Festival glory when landing the Jewson Novices’ Chase in 2011, but was pulled up in last year’s Ryanair Chase and the following campaign was bitterly disappointing.
However, he has shown signs of a revival in the early stages of this season, running well for a long way at Punchestown before a confidence-boosting victory in the John Meagher Memorial Chase at Thurles last month.
Noble Prince holds an entry in the Betfred Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on Thursday, but is likely to instead head to Prestbury Park this weekend.
Nolan said: “We’ve haven’t totally made up our minds, but I’m 90 per cent sure he’ll go to Cheltenham.
“Everything has gone well since Thurles, but it was difficult to know what to make of that run. The two horses he beat, Realt Dubh and Fosters Cross, haven’t run well since.
“It’s not easy to assess where he is. I thought 9lb was a high enough rise for winning that race, he’s up to 154 again now, but he seems to be coming back to himself.
“We hope he’s back to a reasonable standard, but that remains to be seen. You’d like to be going over with more confidence, if his last run had worked out that bit better, but it hasn’t and it’s not an easy call.
“We’ll see what happens on Saturday. We’re happy with the horse.”
Noble Prince is one of 18 confirmations for the two-mile-five-furlong contest, with Arthur Moore’s Home Farm another potential Irish raider.
Jonjo O’Neill’s Paddy Power Gold Cup hero Johns Spirit is set to bid for a major handicap double, while leading owner JP McManus still has Paddy Power runner-up Colour Squadron, recent Newbury scorer Cantlow and Tap Night engaged.
Other contenders include the Paul Nicholls-trained Grandioso, Malcolm Jefferson’s Attaglance and David Pipe’s Salut Flo.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved