It is crunch time for Cue Card at Ascot on Saturday as the 2010 Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner warms up for a fourth successive appearance at the Festival.
Trainer Colin Tizzard expects Cue Card's performance in the Betfair Ascot Chase to tell him whether to aim for the Ryanair Chase or the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase. The seven-year-old has to put behind him a disappointing display in the King George VI Chase at Kempton, where he failed to stay three miles.
"This is a race we planned from Christmas to take in before Cheltenham. He didn't get three miles on heavy ground on Boxing Day. Whether he'll get three miles another day there, I don't know. There might have been other reasons - he might not have been 100%," said Tizzard.
"Our view is if he's going to run in the Ryanair he needs to nearly win this. If he doesn't stay he can go back and take on Sprinter Sacre in the Champion Chase. We will keep the options open to the end, but Ascot should show us which way we are going to go at Cheltenham."
Somersby was far from disgraced on his first run of the campaign, when third to Sprinter Sacre in the rearranged Victor Chandler Chase at Cheltenham.
The Mick Channon-trained gelding had won that race last season when it was at its traditional home of Ascot, where he defeated Finian's Rainbow, who is also in this line-up. Somersby's rider Dominic Elsworth is expecting a decent run as the nine-year-old returns to the Berkshire venue.
"I'm looking forward to it. I was pleased with his run at Cheltenham and he has come out of the race well. It was his first run for a while and he was against Sprinter Sacre, so you had to be pleased enough with the run. The ground wouldn't have been ideal for him, it was really testing," he said.
"He's back at Ascot, where he has run very well in the past, and I don't see the trip being too much of an issue - he's won over two and a half miles. It's going to be a hell of a race. There are just six runners, but it's going to be a competitive race."
Captain Chris took the Amlin 1965 Chase on this course in November before running a tremendous race in the King George when he was only beaten a neck by Long Run.
His trainer Philip Hobbs said: "We could do with better ground, but he won on heavy ground at Ascot before so he'll manage. He ran a fantastic race at Kempton and is in very good form. He always had a tendency to jump right, so it shouldn't matter too much at Ascot."
26 February 2015Safety strikes in Zabeel Mile
Fehily confirms Zarkandar mount
Lieutenant bosses Purcell rivals
Dettori delights on Dubday
Many Clouds goes back to school
Maguire loses appeal
New One at ease for Faugheen clash
Foxrock still in Gold Cup picture
Higgins back in business
Cookie poised for April return
Apache ready to take flight in JLT
Silvi threat unsettles Riches camp
No going concerns at Cheltenham
Fry resigned to Fehily Ruby loss
Trip key to Balder success - King
McLernon gets nod for Holywell
Salsify leads Foxhunter field
Mullins unveils Bumper entry
Curtis hoping for Cross revival
Aurore misses Mares' date
25 February 2015Ton-up for in-form Pipe
Big display from George veteran
Credit to join the Premier league
Jack to duck Grimthorpe date
Tea preparing for National tilt
Geraghty rates Whisper World claims
George retains Module faith
Uramazin ready to go again
Coney team wait on Festival call
Aintree on Ceremony agenda
Silvi is all Gold - Nicholls
Bright Clouds gets serious
Puffin swoops at Leicester
Nicholls: Rheu call tough for Sam
Nicholls suffers Hinterland blow
Own on Cheltenham trail
BHA issues new anti-doping rules
Walsh hoping for a Champagne moment
That ruled out of World bid
24 February 2015Carr revved up for National service
Draycott Festival plans shelved
Knott to appeal three-year ban
Conti at fever pitch for Gold Cup
Fiddes seeking Movie gift
Generous praise for Ransom
No regrets for Doyle
O'Regan rates Stark claims
Fortt wins stable staff gong
Festival aim for Keevil's Legend
Nothing slow about Best's Foot
Duke toppled at Ayr
Serge bids for Festival flyer
Filleule has 'realistic chance'
Henderson: Sprinter 'spot on'
Time beats Henderson with That
Jacob rates Reve chance
Twiston-Davies eager for Rocky ride
Beltor likely for Triumph bid
23 February 2015Fahey's Fab Four at Wolverhampton
Ryanair backs Fairyhouse feature
Mogol in Cheltenham equation
Fairyhouse option for Kilcooley
No hurry for Berbas plan
Waterlogging claims Lingfield card
Plumpton gets go-ahead
Empire strikes back at Naas
Duchess rules on Morgan swansong
Kilcooley shows the right spirit
Two tracks to inspect
Wadham keeping Reve for Sandown
Fahey hoping Owega can star
Moore confident of bold Sire show
Ellison harbours Lincoln dream
Dettori set to have his Toast