Dessie Hughes is growing increasingly confident that Deal Done, third to the runaway winner Junior in last season’s renewal of the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, will be fit and ready to do himself justice in the same race this time around despite having yet to set foot on a racetrack this season, writes Elliot Slater.

The prevailing heavy ground in Ireland this winter has been all against Deal Done who is definitely at his best on a sound surface, and Hughes feels he has the eight-year-old in good shape ahead of his bid to land the contest in which he led the field a merry dance 12 months ago, racing clear at halfway before being reeled in by Junior before the second last, but he kept on bravely and only just lost out in the race for second place to the enigmatic Faasel. People following the 2012 Cheltenham betting markets will be keeping a close eye on the horse.

Running in first-time blinkers on his only subsequent start last year when tackling the marathon Ladbrokes Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in April, Deal Done again scooted clear of his pursuers before running out of steam entering the final half-mile, then fading to eventually finish ninth of the 25 runners behind Organisedconfusion. After picking up an injury in the Fairyhouse contest Hughes decided to give his stayer plenty of time to recover and now feels he has his charge where he wants him ahead of his Cheltenham run for which he is currently priced up at odds ranging from 14/1 to 25 /1 in a market currently headed by 14/1 joint-favourites Sunnyhillboy and Up The Beat, while last year’s runner-up Faasel (who has shown himself to be in good form of late), heads a host of horses currently priced at around the 16 /1 mark.