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."
24 April 2014Rain set to help Punchestown
Rifles aimed at York
Dante considered for Arod
Carpenter faces stamina question
Tonto strives for Sandown scalp
Telescope sights fixed on Sandown
Prize lined up for Greffulhe raid
Celebration time for super Sire
Taghrooda swerves Sandown heat
Concorde checks in for Punchestown
No Sandown run for Oscar
Un De Sceaux to skip Punchestown
Treve among stellar Ascot entries
Charline still in Guineas mix
Big guns remain in Guineas frame
Prince in Punchestown frame
Sparrow set for Punchestown spin
Balder to take novice test
Connell eager for Tank chase run
23 April 2014Telescope tops Richards runners
No rush for Annie target
Cosgrave appeal set for Monday
Hughes set for Sandown return
France adds flair to Guineas
Mullins drops Vautour Champion hint
Exciting Bunker given Dante date
Culloty keen on Gold run for Heeled
Hannon triple-handed in Guineas
Resurge revived for Epsom return
Sandown option for Battalion
Johnston pair clash in Derby Trial
Reckless Abandon returns to track
22 April 2014Rizeena delights in Guineas workout
Carberry targets swift return
Williamson escapes serious injury
Rizeena thrills Brittain on gallops
Door bags National glory
Twiston-Davies hits four-timer
Joe suffers shock defeat
Scudamore hits century mark
Ivan lands Fairyhouse prize
Thousand shows star quality
Cirrus set for Treve clash
Houblon heads Gold contenders
Guineas still on Berkshire radar
21 April 2014Door bags National glory
Wilson passes away
Ivan lands Fairyhouse prize
Stepper set for trip drop
Richards in Telescope sights
Ladies geared for Summer repeat
Hill out of Irish National
No Dundeel at Royal Ascot
Clowance up for the Cup
Garner hit with lengthy ban
Memories in Final flourish
Fitz powers home at Fairyhouse
Toner hits target for Elliott
Joe ready for Cork outing
Lennon looking to call tune
Ground holds key to Tonto show
Lucky escape for Cook
Mind called up for National service