Paul Nicholls is in no rush to make a decision on whether Kauto Star makes his eagerly-awaited seasonal debut in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal or Haydock's Betfair Chase two weeks later.
The Clive Smith-owned nine-year-old took in both races last year, winning at the Co Down venue before a final-fence blunder arguably cost him victory on Merseyside. However, the dual Gold Cup winner will be only asked to start in one of those two races before his bid to become the first to win a fourth consecutive King George VI Chase.
Nicholls said: “Clive is keen to go to Haydock, but he is a good guy and would be happy to go to Down Royal if that's what I wanted. Now the rain has arrived we can start thinking about it a bit more, but there is no rush to make a decision.”
The champion trainer was among the winners at Exeter yesterday when Tataniano winged his way to a striking debut success over fences at Exeter.
A tantalising clash with fellow leading novice Sizing Europe in the Independent Newspapers Novices' Chase on November 15 is on the agenda for Nicholls' five-year-old after this effortless romp on rain-softened ground.
The Andy Stewart-owned 1-5 favourite jumped impeccably in the Best Mate Beginners' Chase, and is just single figures with Paddy Power for the Irish Independent Arkle in March after his price was cut to 8-1 from 12s.
“I was sweating over the weekend watching the weather forecast, but thankfully the rain came in time,” Nicholls said.
“This is a nice race to win and we can now head to the Grade Two at the Paddy Power meeting and have a go at the other good ones.
“He has only been in the indoor school at home so that is his first time jumping fences on grass and his first piece of fast work. It was a perfect introduction and he couldn't have made a better start.”
Stewart added: “We're very pleased with that and he did it very well. Jumping is the thing and he seems to have done that. Let's work our way slowly up the ladder and let's see if we can get to Cheltenham in March.”
Nicholls and Ruby Walsh had earlier combined for a bloodless 17-length success with French import Rebel Du Maquis (even-money favourite) in the Novices' Hurdle.
Meanwhile, Gone To Lunch is on course to make his seasonal debut in the next few weeks.
Trainer Jeremy Scott reports the Scottish National runner-up to have summered well and is aiming to have the nine-year-old back in action in the near future.
The Somerset trainer will chose between the United House Gold Cup at Ascot on Saturday week and the Servo Computer Services Trophy at Cheltenham two weeks later.
“The first plan will probably be either at Ascot in just under a fortnight or there's a race on the Saturday of Cheltenham's Paddy Power meeting over three mile three,” said Scott.