Top Wood, who is unbeaten in two runs after switching to point-to-pointing this season, could tackle a hunters’ chase at Market Rasen next ahead of a bid to win at the Cheltenham Festival.
Rutland-based trainer Kelly Morgan (above) says: "We're hoping to give him another run and then go to Cheltenham. I had a runner in the Fox Hunters' Chase at Aintree last year, but never had one in Cheltenham's Foxhunter Chase [sponsored by St James's Place].
"We bought him with that plan in mind, and when he won at Bishops Court [on the opening day of the season in November] we thought, 'we're half-way there'. Then he won again at Chaddesley Corbett last month and it was a case of 'why not?'.
"The ability is there and he comes alive in big-runner fields – it helps to have experience in those types of races."
Johnny Weatherby now owns Top Wood, who was a winner over hurdles in France as a four-year-old before being sold into David Pipe's yard. He worked his way up to a rating of 144 over fences in the spring of 2016, when running well until falling in both the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase at the Festival and in the Scottish National. He was bought by Weatherby at Tattersalls Ireland's Ascot sale in March.
Two open wins have subsequently gained him qualification for Cheltenham's big hunters' chase, and Morgan says: "He's a bit of an oddball, but it was thought he would do well in a smaller yard with a bit of one-to-one attention. Everything he does he does so easily. He loves soft ground and we're thinking of a race at Market Rasen on February 6."
Sam Davies-Thomas was on Top Wood when he won a mixed open at Bishops Court, while Gina Andrews took over to win the ladies' open at Chaddesley Corbett, so who will be offered the ride next time out? Morgan says: "Sam will ride him, if not Gina will be asked."