Harry Topper's return to his very best in the Newbury mud served to confirm Kim Bailey's position of only heading for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup if conditions are similar on March 14.
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The trainer has long regarded the seven-year-old as his best horse since his only Gold Cup winner to date, 1995 star Master Oats, and treads particularly carefully with him.
After a successful reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, Harry Topper's jumping had deteriorated in two further outings but he simply coped with the ground far better than 5/4 favourite Al Ferof in the Denman Chase and trampled him by 25 lengths.
"We've believed in him from day one. He loves this ground and that makes a huge difference," said Bailey of the 7/2 winner.
"I know he dropped the bit and was given a couple of cracks down the far side, but once he gets going he's as tough as they come.
"We schooled him this morning over five fences and the last time I did that was when Master Oats won the Gold Cup all those years ago. They are similar horses with similar attitudes.
"He proved when he ran at Sandown he doesn't go on good ground and he won't go to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup unless it's very soft. He doesn't have to go anywhere."
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Paul Nicholls said of Al Ferof: "Daryl (Jacob) said he travelled very well but ran out of stamina.
"When Daryl got off he said the Ryanair. John Hales (owner) is keen to go for the Gold Cup, but I'm not sure he's an out-and-out stayer, certainly in that ground. We'll have to sit down and have a think about it."
Sky Bet halved Harry Topper's price to 25/1 for the Gold Cup in March, with representative Michael Shinners saying: "Soft ground looks to be an absolute must for Harry Topper. However, with the weather as it is, you couldn't discount a really testing surface at Cheltenham in March."