Last season, the David Bridgewater-trained The Giant Bolster improved from being a decent handicapper to a champion of the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup (almost), and his campaign this term will be geared very much to a repeat assault on the blue riband back at the home of National Hunt Racing next March, writes Elliot Slater.
First stop though will almost certainly be the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on November 24, a contest in which the seven-year-old will have to be at his best if he is to grab a share of the prize money.
He is likely to be up against the Betfair Chase Odds favourites, Kauto Star, Long Run, and Imperial Commander at this stage of proceedings.
Bridgewater has always held the gelded son of Black Sam Bellamy in high regard but had his work cut out getting his charge to pick his hooves up, as a series of blunders gave away races that might have been his for the taking during his novice career.
Again, early on last term, he unseated Tom Scudamore when fancied on betfair.com for the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
A much better effort when seventh to Carruthers in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury soon after was followed by a narrow defeat at the hands of the smart Time For Rupert. The Giant Bolster then got his head in front in style at his beloved Cheltenham when coming home a mile clear of Poquelin in the Group 3 Murphy Group Handicap Chase.
That performance persuaded his handler to go for the Gold Cup at the course two months later, despite a below-par effort at Newbury in between.
Behind early on at Cheltenham, Scudamore’s mount started to pick up in style in the final mile and powered through to hit the front in the Gold Cup at the second last, only to be run out of it after the final fence by the ill-fated Synchronised.