The majority of the leading fancies for Cheltenham are likely to have another run in the coming weeks to ensure they are in tip-top racing shape for the Festival.
At least five promising Cheltenham hopes head to Ascot this weekend for the Victor Chandler Chase and the outcome may make their Festival plans more clear cut.
Finian’s Rainbow is the current favourite in the horse racing odds at 13/8 to win the Victor Chandler Chase and the race should offer ideal preparation ahead of his anticipated battle with Sizing Europe at Cheltenham.
There is no doubting the horse’s speed, but he is prone to the odd bad jumping error and the pace should be quick enough at Ascot to ensure that he needs to clear obstacles at speed.
If Finian’s Rainbow’s jumping is sticky again, Al Ferof is most likely to capitalise and can be backed at 11/4.
Paul Nicholls has won the Victor Chandler Chase for the last three years and Al Ferof offers his only hope of a fourth in succession.
Al Ferof is still a novice and the Ascot showdown is likely to decide whether he should remain in this company and take on Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle or whether he is good enough to take on more experienced rivals in the Champion Chase.
Wishfull Thinking has been put up as an outsider for the Champion Chase by Pricewise in the Racing Post and could shorten substantially with a victory, while a big run from Somersby may make his Cheltenham prospects clearer.
But perhaps the most interesting of the eight entrants is Forpadydaplasterer, who has been in the first three in 15 of his 16 chase runs.
He has been largely disappointing in recent races, but is still arguably on the comeback from injury troubles and should come on for each racecourse appearance.
Forpadydeplasterer is likely to run in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham and could prove big each-way value if running promisingly at Ascot over a less-suitable trip of just 2m1f.