The 3 things we will find out in the Ascot Chase on Saturday
The Ascot Chase has been a decent pointer towards the Ryanair Chase in recent years with three winners in Berkshire subsequently taking the Festival contest since 2010.
Furthermore, Ma Filleule was second in the race 12 months ago before finishing in the same position at the Festival, while Voy Por Ustedes won this before filling the runner-up spot at Cheltenham.
Race favourite Silviniaco Conti will not be heading for the Ryanair Chase with the Grand National on his agenda, but further down the betting there are horses that could be lining up for the Grade 1 on the Thursday of the Prestbury Park bonanza.
Nevertheless, how things pan out at Ascot on Saturday will certainly answer a few of the questions we have ahead of the big week in March.
Is Dynaste a player in the Ryanair Chase?
David Pipe’s grey was an excellent Festival winner in 2014, but has rarely got his head in front since, having often found one too good in some of the top staying chases in the land.
He was last seen finishing a whopping 105 lengths behind Thistlecrack in the Long Walk Hurdle, but recent reports suggest an improved effort can be expected this week.
Pipe has reported that the son of Martaline has undertaken a wind operation in the time since his last outing, so it could well be that a different Dynaste emerges on Saturday.
A return to a trip that has seen him deliver some of his best performances could be just the ticket for Pipe’s gelding, and a win at Ascot could see is 16/1 odds clipped in for Cheltenham.
Does Vibrato Valtat’s future lie at this trip?
Paul Nicholls has suggested that it will be the Ryanair rather than the Champion Chase for his charge at Cheltenham, but you’d want to see him stay this trip well before including him in your shortlist.
As a novice the seven-year-old was an excellent chaser over around two miles, winning four of his seven chases in the 2014-15 season.
He was, however, well put in his place by Un De Sceaux in the Arkle and has since found the likes of Sire De Grugy, Special Tiara and Sprinter Sacre far too good for him over the shorter trip.
A four length second to Clarcam over two-and-a-half miles at Aintree last April says that it certainly worth trying him at this intermediate trip, and it could be that this is where his future lies.
Is Flemenstar on his way back to his best?
Between November 2011 and December 2012 Flemenstar won seven of his nine chases, three of them at Grade 1 level and looked a real star for the future.
However, his form dropped off in 2013 and a spell on the sidelines saw him return in 2015, only to bitterly disappoint in his first two runs back.
This season though, in the care of Tony Martin, the now 11-year-old has hinted that plenty of ability remains.
He doesn’t hold any Cheltenham entries, but having picked up the pieces when Un De Sceaux fell in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown over Christmas and going close in the Tied Cottage Chase, he looks in solid form.
With his partnership with Andrew Lynch – the jockey who has ridden him to all 10 victories under rules – in the saddle, he could outrun his odds of 10/1.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing.