Carruthers, from Mark and Sara Bradstock's Letcombe Bassett stables, near Wantage, bids to continue his fairy-tale rise to stardom at Cheltenham on Friday.

The five-year-old gelding, who tackles the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, has emerged as one of the country's leading novice hurdlers from a homespun background, which is steeped in the traditions of National Hunt racing.

Carruthers is the first foal of Plaid Maid, who the Bradstocks bought for Sara's father, Lord Oaksey, the former Channel 4 presenter, to provide him with a bit of fun during his retirement.

"She didn't turn out too bad," says Mark. "She won five, I think it was, and was placed quite a bit."

At the end of her racing days, Plaid Maid was sent by Lord Oaksey, now 78, and his wife, Chicky, to be covered by Kayf Tara, the three-times champion stayer and dual Ascot Gold Cup winner, at stud in Shrewsbury.

Carruthers, who takes his name partly from the white C-shaped marking on his head and one of Lord Oaksey's after dinner jokes featuring a character of the same name, was then sent to French event rider Frank Borney as a two-year-old.

Oaksey, the Wiltshire village which takes its name from his breeder, was his next port of call, before he arrived at Letcombe Bassett a year later.

"He was always a very good-looking horse," recalls Mark. "He is a lovely mover and has a tremendous attitude, just like his mother."

Carruthers showed on his racecourse debut last May that he had also inherited a fair amount of ability, finishing second to Daves Dream in a Uttoxeter bumper.

Expectancy was high among his connections when Carruthers made his hurdling debut at Chepstow - and it proved justifed as he beat What A Friend, owned by Sir Alex Ferguson and trained by Paul Nicholls.

He then finished a close second to the highly-regarded Lodge Lane at Exeter, before facing the acid test with a trip to Warwick for the Grade 2 Leamington Novices' Hurdle, run on heavy going.

"We knew there was no-one wanting to make the running, so duly we had to and basically he has put the gun to their heads," says MArk.

"From five out no-one was going to get to us."

Carruthers romped home by 13 lengths under Mattie Batchelor from Nenuphar Collonges, with Souffleur a further 17 lengths back in third.

The son of Kayf Tara's last start came at Bangor where he tackled three miles for the first time, taking the step up in distance in his stride to slam A Glass In Thyne by 25 lengths.

With the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle over the same trip today selected as his Festival target, optimism is high that he can continue his winning streak.

"I think his attributes are a very high cruising speed and he seems to be able to quicken after that," says Mark.

"Obviously we are full of hope. Cheltenham is a completely different ball game to anywhere else - anything can happen.

"One has got to be sensible, but one is dreaming that he is going to be a very good horse and he has obviously proved that he is no slouch."

With Lord Oaksey heading the partnership which owns Carruthers, the gelding's rise to prominence has captured the public's imagination.

"It is fabulous for him having been amateur champion himself and done so much work for the Injured Jockeys' Fund," says Mark. "It is great for him still to be involved."

And Sara adds: "The whole Carruthers story is a dream come true.

"We bought the mare for my dad for very little money to give him some fun. To end up with a horse this good is miraculous."

While the world of racing may be surrounded by uncertainty, one thing is for sure, there would be no more popular winner this week.