Trainer Brian Hamilton has confirmed amateur rider Declan Lavery will maintain his partnership with Weatherbys Champion Bumper favourite Moscow Mannon.
Lavery, who also rides work for champion trainer Willie Mullins, has guided Moscow Mannon to each of his three victories this season.
Connections could easily have gone for a bigger name at the Cheltenham Festival, but they are keeping faith with the young rider.
Hamilton said: “Declan will ride the horse again at Cheltenham.
“The owner wanted to keep him on as we didn’t want to change anything, so that’s what we’re going to do.
“I’m counting down every second now until the race. He’ll do a bit of work after racing at Leopardstown on Sunday and that should put him right.
“All going well, I’ll go out with the horse myself the Sunday morning before Cheltenham.
“He’s one you have to be a bit careful with when you’re travelling and I’ve only got one shot at it, so we’ll go over nice and early and give him time to settle in.
“I’m not really worried about the travelling too much. He went to Galway last year which is five hours on the horsebox and he was grand.
“He just wants to be on his own and I think it’s best to get him there early to keep him calm, and keep me calm as well!”
Lavery is delighted to keep the ride and can hardly wait for what will be his first ever visit to the Festival.
“It’s brilliant – it’s class,” said Lavery.
“I can’t wait now and the horse should take a bit of beating, hopefully.
“He’s a really good horse and I’d say he’ll go on any ground. He’s won on good and he’s won on heavy, so the ground shouldn’t be a bother.
“I had my first ride in Cheltenham when a I rode a horse of Mr Mullins’ at the Paddy Power meeting in November (Supreme Carolina).
“But I’ve never ridden at the Festival – I haven’t even been to the Festival, so I can’t wait.
“I’d say I’ll be going over with Mr Mullins’ horses and riding out on the track in a morning.”
Moscow Mannon features among 39 entries for the Grade One contest and with Willie Mullins aiming for his seventh success in the race, he has four contenders.
Ante-post betting suggests Champagne Fever is the first string and he could be joined by Mozoltov, Pique Sous and The Paparazzi Kid.
“Champagne Fever did everything that was asked and we probably hadn’t got him ready enough at Christmas and we probably didn’t ride him right,” Mullins told At The Races.
“Patrick (Mullins) changed tactics second time out, did a lot more with him and it worked.
“He won his point-to-point on good ground, so I don’t think the better ground in Cheltenham will be any hindrance to him, even though he gallops like a soft ground horse.
“Pique Sous came out and won well the other day in Leopardstown.
“It’s an open enough bumper I think this year.”
Jessica Harrington’s Jezki won on his debut at Leopardstown and could return to that track this weekend.
The trainer said: “He will probably run this Sunday at Leopardstown and we’ll make up our mind (about Cheltenham) after that. He’ll also have the option of waiting for Punchestown.”
Colin Tizzard’s Royal Guardsman and John Ferguson-trained pair New Year’s Eve and Population are some of the better fancied British-trained runners.
Chain Reactor, Circular Quay, Many Clouds and My Tent Or Yours are other notable possibles.
(reopens) Jonjo O’Neill’s unbeaten Shutthefrontdoor has been put out to grass until next jumps season.
JP McManus’ gelding, who won at Ffos Las and Ascot before the end of the year before following up in another Listed event on Betfair Hurdle day at Newbury, was not among the entries for the bumper.
“I never entered him and he won’t run again this year – he’s already gone home,” said O’Neill.
O’Neill is still weighing up the right race for Get Me Out Of Here, who was an agonising second to Zarkandar in the Betfair Hurdle when hampered by the fall of another McManus runner, Darlan.
“I expect he’ll either run in the County Hurdle or the Coral Cup,” the trainer said.