THE owner of The Giant Bolster hopes a big race tomorrow can help tee up the top-class chaser perfectly for a crack at the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Simon Hunt said David Bridgwater's stable star has been working well under the Stow-on-the-Wold trainer's wife Lucy ahead of the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury.
The Giant Bolster was fourth to Long Run in the race last year before finishing second in the Gold Cup only weeks later.
Hunt will be looking for signs that The Giant Bolster is capable of mounting another bold bid in jump racing's blue riband event after he was pulled up in the King George IV Chase on Boxing Day.
His main rival is expected to be Paul Nicholls' Gold Cup contender Silviniaco Conti, who beat him at Haydock on his seasonal debut.
Hunt said: "Bridgie was really happy with the work he did on Wednesday.
"Saturday isn't his Gold Cup and the aim is to have him spot-on for March.
"It's going to be a competitive race and Paul Nicholls' horse is favourite and probably rightly so after winning the Charlie Hall and the Betfair.
"I think Paul Nicholls has said his horse won't be 100 per cent but then neither will ours because we're still five weeks away from our big day.
"So I think what we'll be looking for is a really good encouraging performance, to give the horse the encouragement, which is the main thing, as well as us and the fantastic support he has.
"If he turns up and wins it, all well and good, but he didn't win it last year and the horses that finished in front of us last year were behind us in the Gold Cup.
"It's the next stage along the path and if we're in a position to win it and we do win it, then fantastic.
"But it's like the race last year, when we knew we were in the right place and that the work he had to do in the month or so leading up to Cheltenham was going to be the key.
"For me, it's just fantastic to be able to go there – that's the way I look at it."
Slad trainer Tom George could take on The Giant Bolster with his Gold Cup candidate Mail De Bivre.
The eight-year-old produced high-class form in France, winning five times, but he hasn't raced for more than a year.
George said: "He's had a good preparation and we've been delighted with everything he's done at home since he joined us about four months ago.
"Racing is a lot different over here and we'll learn a lot more about him on Saturday."
Nigel Twiston-Davies could run Little Josh, who needs to finish in the first four of a chase over three miles to qualify for the Grand National.