Joseph O'Brien says there is 'no secret' about the regard he has for Sir Erec as gets set to bid for Triumph Hurdle glory at Cheltenham.
A smart Flat performer, Sir Erec was placed behind the mighty Stradivarius at Ascot on Champions Day last autumn, before turning his attention to jumping hurdles.
He has won his first two over the obstacles in good style and has long been touted as a major contender to win the Triumph Hurdle.
O'Brien, who scored his maiden Festival victory with Band Of Outlaws on Wednesday, knows what is required having overseen the preparation of Ivanovich Gorbatov to win the same race in 2016.
Sir Erec is 11/10 to score in the opening contest at Cheltenham on the final day of the Festival and his trainer is upbeat, despite the knowledge this will be a tougher test compared to last month's impressive Spring Juvenile Hurdle win at the Dublin Racing Festival.
"He ran a nice race first time and improved a good bit to his second run. He'll have to improve again, but we're hopeful he's capable of doing so," said the young trainer.
"Maybe the (Triumph) field might not be as big as it used to be, but all the good ones will still be there. It's going to be a competitive race – and by far his biggest test so far – and he'll probably have to run a career-best to win it."
Tiger Tap Tap went down only a neck behind Sir Erec on his hurdling debut, though was beaten more comprehensively last month. Willie Mullins' charge is 7/1 while a big challenger could prove to be Quel Destin for Paul Nicholls, rated a 4/1 chance.
"He was visually very impressive the last day, and I've never hidden the regard we hold him in. He's very exciting," added O'Brien of Sir Erec.
"He's won his last two races on good ground and won a Listed race on heavy ground on the Flat, so he seems pretty ground-versatile."
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