By Tom Peacock
A final field of seven has been declared for the Betfair Ascot Chase on Saturday and it promises to be a cracking renewal with Top Notch, Waiting Patiently, Coney Island and two-time winner of the race Cue Card among those in the line-up.
There have been some fabulous renewals of the 2m5f Grade One showpiece. Below are five of the best:
Cue Card. Year: 2017. SP: 4-9 favourite.
It is a measure of the enduring presence of Cue Card that his second Ascot Chase came four years after his first.
Eleven at this stage, the immensely popular gelding was in the midst of a hit-and-miss season which had seen him beaten by stablemate Thistlecrack in the King George but he was as good here as he had been when thumping Coneygree in the Betfair Chase.
Cue Card was not faced by desperately strong opposition but roared past Royal Regatta two out to collect a tremendous ninth Grade One win.
He is up against it to make it 10 this weekend, although we should have learnt not to write the old stager off by now.
Silviniaco Conti. Year: 2016. Odds: 2-1.
So often underrated, partly perhaps due to his misfortune to have arrived at the Paul Nicholls yard in the wake of Denman and Kauto Star, this performance was a seventh Grade One among a haul which included a pair of King Georges, Betfair Chases and Aintree Bowls.
As he had lost both those titles and arrived in Berkshire under a bit of a cloud, it contributed to a starting price which he made look very generous.
With the benefit of blinkers and a soft palate operation, Silviniaco Conti bullied his seven rivals with power and fluent jumping, coasting 20 lengths clear of old rival Dynaste.
Riverside Theatre. Year: 2012. Odds: 13-8.
What was most impressive about this display was that Riverside Theatre had not been seen on a racecourse since a wide-margin win in the very same race 12 months earlier.
A hairline fracture to the gelding’s pelvis had ruled him out of the Ryanair Chase, so to bring him back in the shape to pull three lengths clear of Medermit - a Haldon Gold Cup winner at the peak of his powers - is evidence of Nicky Henderson’s training prowess.
Riverside Theatre gave actor Jimmy Nesbitt and his friends some great thrills, going on to his crowning glory in the following month’s Ryanair.
Kauto Star. Year: 2008. Odds: 4-11.
Kauto Star had already answered any questions about a slight downturn in form following his supreme 2006-07 campaign when trouncing his opponents for a second King George and Paul Nicholls opted to use this event for his Gold Cup prep.
In what was, quite surprisingly, the champion’s only appearance at Ascot, he delivered a regal performance in keeping with the setting.
Kauto Star surged into the lead on the run down to the home turn and had far too much in his locker for the admirable Monet’s Garden, both a former and future hero here.
A winner by eight lengths, Kauto Star was to be eclipsed by Denman for the only time in the Gold Cup.
Strong Promise. Year: 1997. Odds: 10-1.
Just four runners lined up but a terrific field which included defending champion and Tingle Creek winner Sound Man and hot favourite One Man, who had been in sparkling form and was fresh from victory at Cheltenham.
Underrated was Chris Kinane’s Strong Promise, still a novice and well-beaten by the great grey at Kempton in the King George on Boxing Day.
Back in imperious form under Norman Williamson, Strong Promise never allowed One Man to dominate, taking him on along the back straight and holding him off by a length in an absorbing battle.
The pair were to have a rematch a year later, with One Man exacting revenge.
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