NORTON trainer Brian Ellison is hoping the road to the Cheltenham Festival passes through Musselburgh this weekend.
The Spring Cottage handler is aiming Always Resolute at the two mile £23,000 Sky Bet Supreme Scottish Trial Novices' Hurdle at the track on Sunday.
A 4-1 chance with the bookmakers, the five-year-old gelding won easily on his debut at Catterick on December 28 before falling at the last when looking assured of victory at the same track last month.
The son of Refuse To Bend joined Ellison ahead of this National Hunt season, having won two handicaps on the Flat for Tim Jarvis in 2014 and 2015, and the veteran trainer confirmed he will be entered for the sport's flagship racing festival in March.
But he conceded that Aintree may be his longer-term target.
"Always Resolute will be going to Musselburgh on Sunday for the Sky Bet Supreme Trial," Ellison said. "He is basically a very good jumper. When he ran last time, I think if Danny (Cook, jockey) had sat quiet on him rather than ask him for a big one at the last, he would have been okay.
"The horse has done well since he joined us and he will be getting an entry for Cheltenham, although I think he may be more of a horse for Aintree in the long-run. We will see how he gets this weekend and take it from there."
Always Resolute will have to take down a couple of contenders from powerhouse yards if he is to prevail.
Champion Jumps trainer Paul Nicholls has entered Simon Squirrel, third in a Grade 2 contest at Cheltenham in November, and Romain De Senam, who finished third in a Grade 2 juvenile contest at the same meeting.
Nicky Henderson has joint-favourite Brain Power, a very impressive winner on his hurdling debut at Kempton in November, and Newsworthy, who has not been seen out since finishing a well-beaten fourth at Cheltenham in October.
Kim Bailey's Charbel also heads the market and was second to the very smart Yanworth in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle at Ascot in December on his latest appearance, having scored on his hurdling debut at Stratford in October.
Seeyouatmidnight, meanwhile, will step up to three miles for the £32,000 Grade 2 totepool Towton Novices' Chase at Wetherby on Saturday.
Trained by Sandy Thomson, Seeyouatmidnight laid down a marker for the RSA Chase at the Festival when jumping and galloping his rivals into submission in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices' Chase over just short of two miles and five furlongs at Prestbury Park on New Year's Day.
A winner at Grade 2 level over hurdles at a furlong short of three miles, the eight-year-old was third to Silsol on his chasing debut over two and a half miles at Carlisle in November but reversed that form emphatically when scoring by 13 lengths at Kelso over nearly three miles on December 6.
Berkshire-based Thomson said: "Seeyouatmidnight has come out of Cheltenham great and we are really happy with him. We had a bit of a nightmare with the weather last week. We managed to get a couple of bits of work into him but not much in between.
"I was absolutely delighted with him at Cheltenham. He is a hard horse to pass and given the type of horse he is I always hoped he was capable of a performance like that.
"It looks like it will be another good race at the weekend but we have got to be hopeful. My only slight concern would be really testing ground because I don't want him to have a real slog this close to Cheltenham. You just worry that a hard race might take the edge off him. The forecast seems to a bit drier down there so hopefully conditions won't be too bad."
Ellison will be hoping for a cross-country double with Definitly Red, runner up to Irish raider Black Hercules at Warwick last time out.