Norfolk trainer David Kemp has adopted a quality-over-quantity policy that appears to be paying off.
He is readying a string of eight pointers that includes Caryto Des Brosses and Law Of Gold, who so nearly gave him a big-race double at Stratford in May, and who have been earmarked for an attempt on the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham in March.
Of Caryto Des Brosses, Kemp says: "He's coming on nicely. He was a little bit jarred up after Stratford, but I think we've got away with it – there was no tendon damage or tears, and just a bit of heat. We didn't turn him out in the summer, but hacked him about to keep him sane and he seems fine."
Caryto Des Brosses, who turns eight on New Year's Day, finished second to top hunter chaser Hazel Hill in the Timico Gold Cup Final at Cheltenham and was then runner-up to Wonderful Charm in the Pertemps Champion Hunters' Chase at Stratford. Kemp says: "If he was feeling his legs at Stratford it wouldn't have helped, but he was beaten because he pricked his ears on the run-in and altered his stride, which cost him that bit of momentum. He did the same the previous year when he won the Restricted Final.
"I'm a fan of headgear, but not for a horse like him. He'd been out in front for three and a half miles, and you wouldn't want him going any faster in cheekpieces.
"The question for us is whether to run him once or twice before Cheltenham, and given his problems it could be only once. He likes soft ground, but I wouldn't run him on heavy and risk pulling him around. Fakenham is our nearest course – he could go for a hunters' chase there."
Law Of Gold, who becomes a seven-year-old on January 1, won last season's pointtopoint.co.uk Champion Novices' Hunters' Chase at Stratford when ridden, like Caryto Des Brosses, by Dale Peters. Kemp says of Law Of Gold: "He could also go for the Foxhunter. Engine wise he is at least as good as Caryto, but he stays forever and wants better ground. He might start off at Thorpe Lodge, but it will depend on the going."
Having built up his string to 15 horses at one stage, Kemp has now reduced the numbers. An arable farmer growing herbs and salads, he says: "We've cut back because of family and business commitments. When you have 15 horses it is a separate business on its own, and we couldn't run it like that."
His horses are not ready before Christmas and he cannot use his preferred gallop on a neighbour's estate until the end of January due to shooting interests. Cantering work is carried out around his own farm, and while it has been wetter than usual in East Anglia this autumn, he admits: "We're praying for more rain."
Peters and Alex Chadwick will ride Kemp's string this season, although the loss of a key member of staff has been a blow. Kemp says: "Jimmy Down, who has worked for me for nine years, was involved in a serious car accident on his way back from Stratford, and when he was just getting over that he suffered an embolism related to the injuries he suffered.
"Two weeks ago he came back to work and was riding out and we were over the moon, then yesterday he suffered another embolism, which probably means he won't ride again. It's a terrible blow for him, and a real blow for us."