We are now less than a month away from the Cheltenham Festival and that means that punters are getting their last chance this weekend to see some key horses have their final prep runs. The Ascot Chase over 2m5f is an absolutely vital trial race for a number of horses heading to the Cheltenham Festival next month and there is a stellar list of entries this season. Over the past few years we have seen some top class horses win this race including Kauto Star, Voy Por Ustedes and Riverside Theatre who has of course won the Ascot Chase for the previous two years.
Last season we saw Riverside Theatre win at Ascot before following up at Cheltenham to win the Ryanair Chase which only serves to highlight how important this race is from a form point of view. The entries for Saturday's race are headed up by Finians Rainbow who won the Champion Chase last season and connections will be looking for a good run as they decide which race to send him to next month. As mentioned, his best form has been over two miles but the feeling now is that he wants further and that should be confirmed either way if he takes his chance at Ascot.
Another interesting horse with an entry on Saturday is Captain Chris who we last saw running a stormer in the King George George Chase over Christmas. That day he went very close to turning over Long Run only to be out stayed and another good run from him this weekend in the Ascot Chase should secure him a run in the Gold Cup. We know he stays the trip on offer at Ascot which is more than we can say about Finians Rainbow and Cue Card who is another classy horse which conenctions are struggling to get a handle on.
Cue Card chased home Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle last season over two miles which is rock solid form but he clearly didn't stay three miles in the King George which means he has been dropped back again in trip once again. Trainer Colin Tizzard has said that how he runs at Ascot will determine his Cheltenham aim with the Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase still under consideration at this stage. It has to be said that the emergence of Sprinter Sacre on the two mile scene has shaken up the chasing division this season with trainers now looking for a race for their horses to win rather than aiming for second place over their preferred trip of two miles.