Swnymor set for Doncaster
Tim Vaughan is hoping Swnymor can book his place at Cheltenham with a confidence-boosting win in the 32Red.com Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster.
The Vale of Glamorgan trainer is looking at the JCB Triumph Hurdle as the most likely target for the four-year-old gelding should he come through this test with flying colours.
Swnymor also has the option of tackling the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle or the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Festival, but the Triumph is the preferred target.
He was last seen falling at the final flight when leading in the Grade One Finale Hurdle at Chepstow in early January after he had made a successful debut over jumps at Newbury in December.
"We're hoping it all goes well. The idea is to get his confidence back after his fall in the Grade One at Chepstow," said Vaughan.
"We want to get him out, get his eye in again and then go to Cheltenham if all goes to plan.
"If he were to win tomorrow, I would say the Triumph would be the obvious one. We've got him in the Supreme and the Fred Winter, but realistically he'll have too much weight in the Fred Winter and the Supreme looks red hot even though we get the weight allowance. We'll just keep all the options open just in case."
Opposition in a field of nine at Town Moor includes the Alan King-trained pair of King Of Dudes and Uriah Heep and Aazif from Donald McCain's stable.
A previous Festival winner in action at the South Yorkshire course is Cheltenian, who makes his eagerly-awaited return after 707 days on the sidelines in the SIG Insulation EBF "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle (Qualifier).
Last seen winning the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in March 2011, Cheltenian is primed to have his first race over jumps.
Trainer Philip Hobbs reports the seven-year-old ready to get back to the track.
"He's been steady away for a long time now, so hopefully he's fit enough to do himself justice. He's in good form," said Hobbs.
Among his 11 rivals are the John Ferguson-trained New Year's Eve, runner-up in last year's Cheltenham bumper.
Minella Forfitness, trained by Nicky Henderson, bids to follow up his recent course success along with his JP McManus-owned stablemate Snake Eyes while the Alan King-trained Valdez is another respected opponent.
Always Waining has his first public performance in the 32Red Casino Veterans' Handicap Chase since he won the Topham Chase over the Grand National fences for the third year running in April.
His trainer Peter Bowen has the John Smith's Grand National itself as the likely target this year.
"He's due a spin to get him ready for the National, hopefully," said Bowen.
Other old favourites such as West End Rocker, Swing Bill, Auroras Encore and Marufo also figure in a field of 10 for the three-mile heat.