Tuesday 19 January 2016 09:24, UK
Paul Nicholls believes that the prevailing testing conditions will suit both Virak and Vibrato Valtat this weekend.
Virak has endured a slightly frustrating season, finishing second to Wakanda in valuable handicaps at Newcastle and Ascot on his last two starts for which the handicapper has raised him by 6lbs to a mark of 159.
The seven-year-old was handed an entry in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup last week but his next assignment is more likely to come in handicap company at Haydock this weekend where he is set to carry top-weight in the Peter Marsh Chase.
"He's in the Peter Marsh and the Sky Bet Chase, but could even run in the Cotswold Chase," Nicholls told At The Races.
"If the ground was very testing at Cheltenham, it could be worth a look as he wouldn't have any penalties. At the moment he's running at Haydock but we'll have to see.
"Virak is in no-man's land. He's got to improve a huge amount but it was worth making the entry [for the Gold Cup]."
One runner from Ditcheat certain to be lining up on Saturday is Vibrato Valtat who is one of seven remaining entries for the Sodexo Clarence House Chase at Ascot.
The grey finished third behind Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy, who could re-oppose, in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton last time and Nicholls felt that performance was as good as any the Voix du Nord gelding has produced.
"Vibrato Valtat ran probably a career-best the other day at Kempton," he opined.
"He's running again this weekend and the more testing the ground, the better it will help him. He's a good, solid horse who gives his owners an awful lot of fun without probably being quite a true Grade One horse.
"He'll probably just reached his limit but it's amazing how far he's gone and he'll definitely be going further after this weekend.
"We might look at the two-and-a-half-mile race at Ascot and the Ryanair. He won't run in the Champion Chase unless it came up absolutely bottomless. He's crying out for a trip, but if the ground is testing this weekend that will be a big help to him.
"He always runs a solid race. He won the Haldon Gold Cup and that probably was his Gold Cup if you see what I mean."