Nigel Twiston-Davies is hoping a visor will help spark The New One back to life as he bids to win a fourth Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The popular 10-year-old ran a rare dull race first time out this season at Ffos Las, where he failed to show any of his customary enthusiasm when beaten 25 lengths by Silver Streak in the Welsh Champion Hurdle.
Returning to his favourite track and a race he has won three times before – and was almost four last year – The New One needs to show a fair bit more to fend off retirement, a thought mooted earlier in the week but played down since.
“It is not his swansong, he is just having another race and we will see how he gets on,” said the Gloucestershire handler.
“We are putting the headgear on to hopefully help sharpen him up, as he was disappointing last time.
“We are not saying this is definitely his last by any means, as he will probably go further again. We just want to see a bit more sparkle than at Ffos Las.
“He has been superb at home and has been good as gold, he is not showing his age at all.
“He’s won the Unibet International Hurdle three times. To be beaten by My Tent Or Yours last year – having to give him 6lb – and be beaten a length, it should have been four.”
Another contender on something of a retrieval mission is Tom George’s Summerville Boy, dramatic winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March.
While he was set a stiff task on his first run of the season in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle against Buveur D’Air and Samcro, he was beaten a long way from home.
George hopes a return to the scene of his finest hour has a rejuvenating effect.
“I don’t think his fitness had anything to do with his performance at Newcastle, for some reason he just didn’t show up – but he’s been in good form since then,” said George.
“We know he likes the track and we’re happy with him, he’s in good form so we may as well go back to somewhere we know he likes.
“If this doesn’t work it might be time to explore different avenues, but we’ve gone back to what we know works.
“There aren’t many options. There’s this, the Christmas Hurdle – but I don’t think Kempton would suit – or we’d have to wait for Haydock, but that means waiting until the middle of January.”
Nicky Henderson runs two with Brain Power, second in last season’s Arkle, reverting to the smaller obstacles.
Henderson said: “Michael (Buckley, owner) is very keen to go back over hurdles. I would have quite liked to have run in the Peterborough Chase actually – put some cheekpieces on him and jumped fences with him – but Michael was very keen that we came back over hurdles and I don’t disagree with him.
“The race has opened up quite considerably and he’s very talented. I’m not sure Cheltenham is always his favourite place, but he’s well capable of running a very big race.”
We Have A Dream, a Grade One winner at Aintree last season but beaten twice already during this campaign, most recently at Ascot over two and a half miles, also runs for Seven Barrows.
“I don’t think dropping in trip is terribly significant although, having said that, at the second-last he looked to have a great chance and all of a sudden he faded out of the race a little bit,” said Henderson.
“These four-year-olds, we know have a difficult time in their second season, but he seems in good form and I’d be very happy for him to come back this weekend.”
Silver Streak, Western Ryder, Old Guard and Vision Des Flos complete the field.