Bryan Cooper believes First Lieutenant will be the one to beat if he runs in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on 9 February.
Cooper won the Betfred Bowl on Mouse Morris' nine-year-old at Aintree last year when standing in for the injured Davy Russell but as the new retained rider for the powerful Gigginstown House Stud, the ride will be Cooper's when he wants it.
First Lieutenant bounced back to his best form in the Lexus when narrowly beaten by Bobs Worth in the hands of David Casey and Cooper feels in the absence of Nicky Henderson's Gold Cup winner and fellow Gigginstown-owned Sir Des Champs, Morris' flag bearer will take all the beating next month.
"He ran a cracker (in the Lexus), he's probably one of my favourite horses in training. He's so tough," Cooper told At The Races.
"He went to Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown and ran great races each day and I think if he goes to the Hennessy, he should be the one to beat hopefully."
Cooper is also looking forward to riding Philip Fenton's Last Instalment, who is set to return from a lengthy absence in the near future.
"He's due to come back soon enough. He's had a long lay off but from what I heard the other day, he's on the road back," said Cooper.
"He has kind of been half-forgotten about, but if he makes it back to the level he was at as a novice, he's definitely one to look forward to."