Philip Hobbs claims victory for Defi Du Seuil in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase would give him a great sense of personal satisfaction.
The improving seven-year-old will bid for an eighth Grade One victory when taking on reigning champion Altior and dual Grade One winner Chacun Pour Soi in a contest described by many as the race of the meeting.
Since tasting defeat to Chacun Pour Soi at Punchestown in May, the JP McManus-owned gelding is unbeaten in three starts over two miles, backing up his Shloer Chase effort over course and distance with Grade One wins in the Tingle Creek at Sandown and Clarence House Chase at Ascot.
Hobbs said: “I suppose it would have to give you more satisfaction if you beat all of those, and I suppose longer term he is more likely to stay at the top level over two miles.
“If he beats both horses it would elevate his status if that happened. At the end of the day though, the main thing is that all the connections of Defi Du Seuil would just love him to win.
“He has done phenomenally all the way through, except for the season when he had a blip and only ran twice.”
With the prospect of the race being staged on soft ground Hobbs, believes that could put Defi Du Seuil at an advantage over his market rivals.
Hobbs said: “Ground is not a factor for us. Defi goes well on very soft ground and it might be a disadvantage to the other two (Chacun Pour Soi and Altior).
“He stays further than two miles, that we know, and his stamina might come into play on softer ground.”
Thyme Hill is set for a first outing over three miles in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, for which he is the general 9-2 favourite.
Hobbs said: “I would think we would go three miles, providing it is not very soft, and I’m sure he would stay the trip. He won very nicely at Newbury in the Challow Hurdle, staying on well, so we hope the trip would suit him.
“He is not a horse that holds a lot of condition, therefore constitution wise you want him strong for Cheltenham and he looks in good nick.”
The Minehead handler plans to step Sporting John, who is three from three under rules, up to two miles and five furlongs in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, having cast aside Grade Two winner Master Debonair over slightly shorter at Ascot last time out.
He said: “I would think the Ballymore is the most likely this stage. Although he has enough pace to go two miles in the Supreme, the two-miles-five will probably suit him better and the form of his Ascot win looks good.
“The bigger field would be the only difference to the Ascot race, but he can only beat what is there.”
Last time out Sandown scorer Deise Aba will be given the chance to complete a hat-trick of victories over fences for the season in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup.
Hobbs said: “He is progressive and won well at Sandown and we hope he can build on that again in the Kim Muir.
“He is a very nervous horse and it has taken a fair bit of time to get his act together, but he has now and is hopefully still on an upward curve.”
Pileon is another to note for the Hobbs team, and is set for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
Hobbs said: “He has won his last two races well, having finished in a novice hurdle at Cheltenham in November which was a good run. Hopefully he will get into the Martin Pipe, as he needs a few to come out.”