Owner John Snook is keeping his fingers crossed Thistlecrack belatedly gets his crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup this season.
The Colin Tizzard-trained 11-year-old was ante-post favourite for the big race two seasons ago after winning the 2016 King George VI Chase at Kempton.
However, he suffered a shock defeat on his next start in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham, subsequently missed the rest of the campaign through injury and was also sidelined last spring.
Despite his advancing years, Thistlecrack has proved he is no back number with two fine efforts in defeat this term, finishing third in the Betfair Chase at Haydock before filling the runner-up spot behind Clan Des Obeaux when bidding to regain his King George crown on Boxing Day.
Now Snook is keen to go straight for the main event in March.
He said: “I was delighted with his run at Kempton. It was just nice for the horse to run such a good race and make it a competitive race.
“He and Clan Des Obeaux left the rest of the field for dead, and he just found one too good.
“Everyone is writing him off because of his age, as he is getting on, but I could not see too much wrong with that performance. It was about as good a performance as when he won the race two years ago.
“If all the others are Gold Cup prospects, then bring it on.”
He added: “Unless my trainer tells us any different, he will go straight to the Gold Cup. I’ve always wanted a horse to run in the Gold Cup, and this will be the third season we have tried with him, and I will probably never get another chance.
“The most important thing is getting the horses to their destination at the end of the day.
“I’ve not been down to Colin’s since – but as far as I know, he has been fine.”
Snook also provided an update on Thistlecrack’s half-brother West Approach, who came close to winning at the top level himself before being mowed down late by Paisley Park in the JLT Hurdle – better known as the Long Walk – at Ascot.
Snook added: “I was a bit disappointed we didn’t win, because I thought he did everything right to win that race. One has come out of the pack and beat us.
“Whereas we could see Harry Cobden was going well on Clan Des Obeaux in the King George, I didn’t think anything was going to come out of the pack in the JLT Hurdle because it looked like everything was struggling.
“He will probably head to the Cleeve Hurdle now.”