Hales holds Gold-en dream
Owner John Hales hopes he has a future Gold Cup horse on his hands ahead of Al Ferof's chasing debut in the Independent Newspaper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday.
Trained by Paul Nicholls, the striking grey stayed on strongly up the Prestbury Park hill to win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Festival in March.
He was also a high-class bumper horse, beaten only by Cue Card in the championship event of 2010, giving Hales reason to think he can reach the very top over fences.
There is no question of taking the softly-softly approach with him as he starts life in Grade Two company, but Hales, who famously owned another brilliant grey in One Man, said: “It's his first run of the season, so it's not the be all and end all.
“He fell at Cheltenham over hurdles last season, but still won at the Festival.
“I'd be happier to see him finish second this weekend and jump well than win and jump badly. He's schooled well and we're looking forward to it.
“I think he'll get further than two miles so I'd imagine you won't see him running over that trip for too long — I hope I have a Gold Cup horse on my hands.”
Al Ferof will not have it easy with the likes of Bellvano, Lancetto, stablemate Toubab, Court In Session and Astracad among the nine-runner field.
Nicholls has won the race for the last three years with Tatenen, Tataniano and Ghizao.
Meanwhile Gold Cup winner Long Run on Friday enjoyed a schooling session with big-race jockey Sam Waley-Cohen at Nicky Henderson's Seven Barrows yard.
Amateur jockey Waley-Cohen does all the homework on the brilliant six-year-old, who also won the King George last year and is due to reappear in the Betfair Chase at Haydock next weekend.
Henderson has openly admitted Long Run needed plenty of schooling on his arrival from France, and is still attempting to iron out any kinks in his technique.
"We just put the finishing touches to him. We schooled with Yogi (Breisner) over show-jumps and this morning over steeplechase fences," Waley-Cohen said.
"Monday we'll go back and do a bit more showjumping, that's not really a reflection of today because he did it well, just to make sure the lesson has been learned.
"He feels fantastic and is moving brilliantly but these horses go wrong so quick, we touch wood and hope he gets to the Betfair in the condition he is in now."
Young Tom Bellamy looks to have the world at his feet after producing a stylish ride on Swing Bill in the Irish Times Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.
The 17-year-old son of former jockey Robert, now clerk of the course at Towcester, had plenty on his plate at half-way as he was already nudging the grey along.
But David Pipe's Swing Bill (9-1), who was second in the race last year off a much lower mark, really responded and was in front by the turn for home, with Bellamy pushing him seven lengths clear of Stewarts House.
"He's obviously a better jockey than his dad," chuckled owner David Johnson. "We knew he was a safe conveyance as he jumps well, but he had a lot of weight and this is a nice surprise.
"It was the jockey's first ride at the course, and it was a great one."