MOUSE MORRIS believes China Rock is ready to show his true colours in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Saturday week.
Last season's Punchestown Gold Cup hero missed the first part of the new campaign after suffering a setback and did not reappear until last month's Lexus Chase. The 10-year-old travelled as well as anything during the race, but predictably weakened in the home straight and passed the post well held in fifth.
Morris is confident his charge will strip fitter for his next run and is keen to see how he fares before making plans for the spring.
He holds entries in both the Ryanair Chase and the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.
Morris said: "China is going to run in the Hennessy and we'll see where we go after that.
"He's been in great form since Christmas. He ran well for a long way in the Lexus and just got tired. I think he's come on a ton for the run, so we'll see how he gets on next time and make a plan from there."
Two Morris inmates who are Festival-bound are First Lieutenant and Rule The World.
First Lieutenant was beaten just a head by Tidal Bay in the Lexus and appears bound for the Gold Cup, while runaway Naas winner Rule The World is prominent in ante-post lists for both the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett.
"It's so far so good with them. We've had no hiccups yet but there is still over a month to go, which is a long time," said the trainer.
"Both horses are in good shape at the moment.
"I would say Rule The World will probably run in the two-mile-five-furlong race (Neptune), but I don't want to commit to that just yet."