Nicky Richards has never hidden the regard in which he holds the promising Ribble Valley, who reappears at Carlisle on Thursday.
Winner of four of his six races under rules, he met with defeat when last seen at Ascot behind Master Debonair on heavy ground.
He had a wind operation following that run in December, before his season was cut short by the pandemic.
“Hopefully we don’t get too much rain and it will be just good to soft ground. It was nice ground there the other day,” said Richards.
“He had a little wind op when things at Ascot didn’t work out quite right, but we were toying with that idea before.
“We had that done with the view we were probably going to go to Aintree or Ayr for the Scottish Champion, and then we know what happened.
“He’s in grand fettle, ready to run and get his season started and take it from there.
“He’ll jump fences fine when the time comes, we’ll see how he gets on his next run or two before we decide when that’s going to be.”
His main rival in the in the Watch Irish Racing On Racingtv.com Intermediate Hurdle appears to be Olly Murphy’s Nickolson, winner of two of his three races to date.
“If Nicky Richards’ horse is as good as they say he is then we might struggle to beat him,” said Murphy.
“My lad has been in good form at home, he’s training well and whatever he does he will improve upon.
“I know we are getting a little bit of weight, but if Nicky’s is as good as they say then it looks like we might be facing a tall order.
“He’s a nice horse for the future in any case.”
Murphy sends Notre Pari north for the Introducing Racing TV Beginners’ Chase, which also looks competitive.
“This looks a good starting point for him, coming back down in trip to two miles on a stiff track on some nice ground,” said Murphy.
“He was a decent novice hurdler, but I’m keen to see how he’ll get on over fences.
“He’s ready to go but will improve on whatever he does.”
Peter Niven’s Malystic, Sandy Thomson’s Elf De Re and the Dan Skelton-trained Protektorat will ensure there is plenty of strength in depth.
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