Last year’s Paddy Power Gold Cup hero Al Ferof is set to make his highly-anticipated return in Ascot’s Amlin 1965 Chase and the talented grey looks ready to bounce back in style following a leg injury that blighted his previous campaign.
Trainer Paul Nicholls had to suffer the double heartbreak of injuries to both Al Ferof and Big Buck’s last season but now his stable stars are primed for track action.
And in Al Ferof the Ditcheat-based saddler knows he has a talent capable of entering the winner’s enclosure when running fresh.
Both of his previous seasonal reappearances have resulted in victories and there’s every reason to believe that the same outcome is likely at Ascot.
The eight-year-old has only two other competitors to trouble him – King George VI Chase runner-up Captain Chris and Nicky Henderson’s consistent yet exposed charge French Opera – and his class should tell come the end of the 2m3f affair.
The former of the aforementioned pair was last year’s renewal winner and should relish this step down in trip.
However, facing a dual Grade One winner of Al Ferof’s class is another test entirely, while French Opera’s runner-up place as a beaten favourite at Newbury in February represents his best form from six previous outings.
Ultimately, Kempton’s King George running on Boxing Day will remain the main target of Al Ferof’s connections.
And an encouraging performance could see his odds of 10/1 to land that famous race tumble with the 4lb afforded to him by Captain Chris in the Amlin another positive for onlookers to focus on.
Philip Hobb’s nine-year-old will also use the upcoming Berkshire showpiece as a tune-up for the King George, a race he was only narrowly edged out of last year by Long Run.
That kind of form shows he rightly deserves his place alongside the likes of Al Ferof.
But Hobbs and jockey Richard Johnson are likely to find Captain Chris in the rear-view mirror of an opponent who will be too hot to handle if clicking on his comeback.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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