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."
25 March 2017Bullish Tom Symonds fancies Don Bersy to maintain hot streak at Newbury
Nicky Henderson has Punchestown in mind for Brain Power
Amateur rider James Ridley banned for 28 days in Newbury drama
Daryl Jacob hoping Gordon Elliott can work Natonal magic with Ucello Conti
Oliver Sherwood has Hitherjacques Lady ready to roll for Newbury test
Hugo Palmer targets Mile high with Gifted Master
Jim Crowley bowled over by Al Quoz Sprint hope Ertijaal
Heartbreak City chasing Dubai Gold for Tony Martin
Roger Charlton has Decorated Knight ready for Meydan Turf war
Roger Varian optimistic as Postponed challenges for Sheema Classic double
24 March 2017Double delight for Nicky Henderson at Newbury
Dermot McLoughlin forced to rule Vics Canvas out of Grand National
Bob Baffert wants to rule the World with awesome Arrogate
Charlie Appleby maps out Classic gameplan with exciting filly Wuheida
Coneygree going great guns for Sizing John showdown at Punchestown
Sam Twiston-Davies sides with Saphir Du Rheu in Grand National at Aintree
Jean-Claude Rouget stars Almanzor and La Cressonniere set for big 2017
Cheltenham ace Yorkhill heads Ryanair entries at Fairyhouse
Supreme ruler Labaik in great heart with Fairyhouse and Punchestown on the radar
'Slow process' as Toast Of New York continues to be assessed for racing return
Hopes high Derek Fox will return from injury to ride One For Arthur in National
Mags Mullins in no hurry to map out Debuchet plans
Enda Bolger hoping Aintree fences will fire up On The Fringe
23 March 2017Nigel Hawke continues hot streak at Ludlow
Sweet success for Bonbon at Cork
Let's Dance figures in Fairyhouse list
Cheltenham hero Presenting Percy in frame for Grade One honours at Punchestown
Karl Burke keen on Temple Stakes return for Quiet Reflection
Red-hot Richard Johnson secures Warwick four-timer
Warren Greatrex has Punchestown plan for Haydock winner The Nipper
Ruth Carr issues Kempton poser to new recruit Sovereign Debt
Aintree 'the target' for injured Barry Geraghty
Willie Mullins has strong hand in Topham Chase at Aintree
Kim Bailey happy to play it cool with Charbel after Cheltenham woe
Andrew Slattery looking to new recruit Dinkum Diamond to sparkle at Naas
22 March 2017BHA planning to toughen up licensing procedures for new jockeys
Tully East likely to head to Punchestown following Festival triumph
David Pipe looking to National duo to shine on Aintree stage
Dai Walters hoping to mount Mildmay challenge with Whisper
Arrogate drawn in stall nine for Dubai World Cup assignment
Sandra Hughes hoping Acapella can make Punchestown amends
Vieux Lion Rouge leads Pipe's National assault
Clan Des Obeaux back in the groove at Exeter for Paul Nicholls
Robin Dickin gives Thomas Crapper Topham entry at Aintree
More Of That replaces Minella Rocco as Jonjo O'Neill's Grand National hope
Creggs Pipes blowing hot as Naas stages Flat curtain-raiser
Joseph O'Brien says Edwulf is 'absolutely perfect' and on the way home
Nico de Boinville says Might Bite has the appetite to show 'immense potential'
Fairyhouse-bound Foxrock set to swerve Grand National at Aintree
All roads lead to Aintree for Paul Nicholls' Saphir Du Rheu