Adrimel will bid to provide his upwardly mobile trainer Tom Lacey with a breakthrough first Cheltenham Festival victory in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
Lacey is consolidating his rise through the training ranks from his Herefordshire base — and Adrimel is his leading light this season, having already registered a first Grade Two success for the yard in January’s Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick.
As well as the exploits of Adrimel and his big Grand National hope Kimberlite Candy under rules, Lacey’s name is associated with a string of potential stars — such as Willie Mullins’ top-class Energumene — who have graduated from the nurture of his wife Sophie’s point-to-point string.
Among Adrimel’s stern opposition on Friday, Mullins supplies the well-fancied Stattler from his Closutton powerhouse — one of three Irish challengers near the top of the market, alongside Denise Foster’s Fakiera and Torygraph.
Adrimel will therefore need a clear career-best if he is to succeed Mullins’ mighty Monkfish as the latest winner of Friday’s Grade One novice stamina test — but after his improvement when moved up in trip to two miles and five furlongs for the first time, hopes can be high.
Lacey also put cheekpieces on the six-year-old for the first time then, and is in no doubt they were a huge help.
He said: “The cheekpieces had a huge effect on him last time, because they sharpened up his jumping so much it made life much easier for Richard Johnson and himself.
“It is one of the finer decisions I’ve made.
“I was nervous putting them on such a young horse, but I had to do something to make him more professional in his races.”
Lacey hopes former winning Irish point-to-pointer Adrimel will be well-served by his clean jumping and adaptability too.
“At Warwick he was incredibly accurate — and if he had winged the last he would have won more impressively — but he just keeps digging,” he added.
“He doesn’t have to make it either.
“When he won his bumper at Doncaster, he was dropped in that day. I would much rather have him dropped in the second or third row at Cheltenham.”
Among Adrimel’s rivals, Nicholls is confident stamina will be a huge asset for both his hopefuls.
Barbados Buck’s has been a prolific winner since moving up to this trip
“He’s been really progressive this year — he’s rated 143, and his form just keeps getting better,” said the multiple champion trainer.
“He’s won his last three — the last day at Kempton, he carried a 10lb penalty, he was strong from the back of the last and won nicely.
“He’s a proper staying horse. You need something here that will stay forever, and he’d be right in that. I think he’s so laid-back he will be absolutely fine (stepping up in class).”