Ladbrokes Trophy runner-up The Conditional will head to Warwick next month.
Connections will choose between the McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Chase or a Grade Two novice chase on the same card on January 11 for the seven-year-old.
Trainer David Bridgwater has the Grand National at the back of his mind – but whether that is this season or next will be decided in the coming months.
“We’re going to give him a couple of entries at Warwick – the Classic Chase, which I’d imagine he’d have to be favourite for, without seeing the runners, and he’ll have the option of the novice race on the same day,” said Bridgwater.
“If he was to win one of those we’ll take a view where he goes after that, because he’s not stopped improving.
“He did have some fair experience in Ireland before he joined us – he was fourth in the Leinster National and ran in a maiden chase, won by the Arkle winner (Duc Des Genievres).
“I think he’s too good for something like the Kim Muir. I was talking to his old trainer (Martin Hassett) the other day, and he thinks he’s an Irish National horse. If I was Irish I’d agree with him – but I’m not!
“We’ve only got one good horse, and the big yards have 10, (so) we’d come up against something Willie Mullins has been keeping back for it – and we’d rather pick and choose carefully.”
Bridgwater is no stranger to handling a good horse, most notably The Giant Bolster – who finished second, fourth and third in three Gold Cups – and he believes The Conditional is his next stable star.
“He’s more straightforward to train than Bolster – he was a complicated character who was very hit and miss,” said the Cotswolds trainer.
“Thankfully for us, he saved his hits for Cheltenham – he came to life on Gold Cup day as if he knew what it was. Any other day, he wouldn’t win a selling hurdle.”
Bridgwater has big plans for The Conditional, but is in no rush.
“I think this fellow is a Grand National horse, perhaps not this year, but he might get an entry,” he added.
“If he wins the Classic Chase he could be second-favourite for the National, but it just might be a year too early – he only turns eight next week.
“I have to blow my own trumpet, because nobody else will. Going into Newbury I couldn’t believe West Approach was favourite, because we’d already beaten him, and even when we were second we still barely got a mention.
“When we get a good one we know what we’re doing, I think – we’ll look after him, run him in the right races, and planning for these races gives you such a buzz.”