Ascot Chase preview: Top Notch team full of respect for rivals in "outstanding" renewal

Sat 17 Feb 2018

Click here for all the runners, riders, form and latest odds for the Betfair Ascot Chase.

By staff

Connections of Top Notch have admitted their surprise that Nicky Henderson's charge is no bigger than 2-1 for what looks an ultra-competitive renewal of the Betfair Ascot Chase on Saturday.

A winner over course and distance earlier in the season, the seven-year-old took the rearranged Peterborough Chase last time out and is currently second favourite for the Ryanair Chase next month.

Anthony Bromley, racing manager for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, said: "We're full of hope, but we're certainly not confident and I'm surprised he's as short a price as he is, to be honest.

"It looks an outstanding renewal of the Ascot Chase. There are several top-class horses in it and I really think they are all dangers to him.

"There are a lot of progressive horses in the race and it will take a herculean effort for him to win, but let's hope the bookmakers are right. It is a £150,000 Grade One, so it is no surprise there are a lot of good horses lining up.

"Top Notch hasn't run since December, but Nicky seems happy with him and we'll see how he gets on."

One of those dangers is Waiting Patiently, who travels south for fledgling trainer Ruth Jefferson, who has taken over the licence from her late father, Malcolm.

"He's all set. It looks a good race and probably a better race than the one he won at Kempton, but he's entitled to have a go," she said.

Waiting Patiently wins at Kempton Waiting Patiently is unbeaten over fences (Racingfotos)

"The ground won't matter to him and he seems to handle most tracks, so I don't see that being a problem. There are a lot of improving horses in the race and you couldn't rule any of them out.

"Our horse is fit and well and I can't find any negatives, to be honest. It's just a question of whether he's the best horse on the day or he's not. We're looking forward to having a go."

Dual winner Cue Card will be reunited with his old ally Paddy Brennan, as his new jockey Harry Cobden is required elsewhere by Nicholls. 

"He is getting older and Father Time will catch up with him eventually, but I'd be surprised if he's caught up yet. He's in very good form," trainer Colin Tizzard told At The Races.

"It's a hot race. Last year it wasn't that hot. This is a proper trial and we'll see where we are now.

"It's a lovely race to have and the stable is in form and it's always a good time to run horses when they're in form."

Irish hopes rest with Eddie Harty's Coney Island, one of last season's top novices and the winner of a three-runner race at Ascot on his comeback.

"I think last time it was a bit of both, he looked good but the race did fall apart," said Harty, whose charge is prominent in the ante-post market for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

"He hadn't run for a while and he was out of his comfort zone early on and the leader went a bit quick. Our lad finished his race out well.

"He's in good heart, travelled over on Wednesday, but I'd probably prefer it if it was better ground. We just have to take what we're given. We stay three miles."

Paul Nicholls steps Frodon back up in class after an easy victory in a big handicap under Bryony Frost, who keeps the ride.

Festival Trials Day - Cheltenham Racecourse Frodon was an impressive winner at Cheltenham last time (PA)

"He had a great season last season and won six novice chases. He has been running really well this season and put in a fantastic performance the other day. He is rated 164 now and went up quite a lot for winning," said Nicholls.

"We really have no other choice than to run in Grade Ones or better races other than handicaps. The last performance was awesome, really, he just travelled well and I've not seen too many horses sprint up that Cheltenham hill like he did on that sort of ground.

"That was a handicap and this is a Grade One, with totally different horses in it, but he deserves to take his chance."

Speredek chased home Un De Sceaux in the Clarence House Chase and steps up in trip for Nigel Hawke.

"It looks a very good race, but he was not beaten far by one of the best horses in training last time," said Hawke.

"The question mark is obviously the trip. If he proves he can go over this sort of distance in this grade, it opens up more doors."

Gary Moore's Traffic Fluide is the outsider, and his trainer said: "He has been a complete enigma this year. It is his first run back after a short break from the King George and I would not want to say what is going to happen."

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