Robbie Power admits that "the clock is ticking" on Sizing John as an unusually dry spell prevents the 2017 Gold Cup winner from making his seasonal reappearance.
A pelvic injury halted Sizing John's blue-riband defence last March and Jessica Harrington's star chaser has been off the racecourse since disappointing over a year ago in the 2017 Leopardstown Christmas Chase.
Harrington revealed that the nine-year-old was 15kg heavier than his normal racing weight pre-Christmas as she opted to play the waiting game and Power revealed his exasperation at the effects the dry spell is having on his season.
"It's getting a bit frustrating at this stage. I'm nearly 20 years riding now and I've never known the ground to be this good in January. There's one thing we can't control though and that's the weather," Power said in his Boylesports blog.
"So we're just going to have to be patient. It is Ireland we live in, after all, so at some stage we are going to get rain! There are a lot of trainers just trying to get runs into them. The clock is ticking though and they're going to have to run somewhere between now and Cheltenham."
Harrington mooted a possible spin over hurdles for Sizing John - 16/1 for the Gold Cup - while current Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy (4/1) has similarly had a delayed preparation with Pat Kelly refusing to run last year's RSA Chase winner until there is an ease in the ground.
Meanwhile, Colin Tizzard will delay the chasing career of last year's Albert Bartlett Hurdle winner Kilbricken Storm for a tilt at the Stayers' Hurdle.
Tizzard's eight-year-old won his fencing debut at Ffos Las in November but subsequently disappointed in a Newbury Grade Two and will switch back to the smaller hurdles for the remainder of the season.
"The owners are not very keen to continue over fences, and they are quite keen to have a go at the Stayers' Hurdle," Tizzard said. "He was a very good hurdler last season and it is becoming more fashionable to swap horses round."