The winners of last year’s Gold Cup and King George VI Chase face off in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal on Saturday, Cuándo Frodon (2.50) and Bryony Frost look overpriced at around 3-1 to get the better of Minella Indo and Rachael Blackmore.
Frodon was a long way behind Minella Indo at Cheltenham in March but clearly failed to get home over the extended three-and-a-quarter miles. He showed all his familiar enthusiasm and accuracy until his stamina gave out, sin emabargo, and back at three miles and on a sharper track, his impeccable jumping and front-running style could make him very difficult to pass.
Wetherby 1.20 Gericault Roque was useful over hurdles and should be better over fences but this is a fair test for his chasing debut and he could make the market for Corran Cross at around 6-1. He travelled like the winner until the closing stages last time and will appreciate this drop back in trip.
Ascot 1.35 Several promising types make their chasing debut here, including Solo, Nassalam and Sam Barton. The best form on offer, aunque, is probably Kid Commando’s successful seasonal debut on this card last year and he can make a winning start to the campaign for the third season running.
Wetherby 1.55 A strong renewal of this Listed mares’ hurdle but Miranda is the one to beat on her winning form at Doncaster in January.
Ascot 2.10 A “niggling problem” with a splint ruled out Boothill for the rest of the season after a deeply impressive success at Taunton last December but his form there was backed up by the clock and he sets out in handicaps on what could prove to be a very handy mark.
Wetherby 2.30 Paisley Park would be a strong favourite for this on his best form but he was pulled up on his latest start at Aintree and also needed a race to blow off the cobwebs last term. That could leave the door open for Thomas Darby, who gets 6lb from the former champion stayer and improved for the step up to three miles last time.
Ascot 2.45 Sully D’Oc Aa has shot up the weights since winning a novice handicap chase on this card 12 months ago but he goes well fresh and looked better than ever at the Punchestown Festival last time.
Wetherby 3.05 Cyrname has an excellent record after a break and the memory of an outstanding win in this race 12 months ago is still strong. He was pulled up on both subsequent starts, sin emabargo, and is difficult to back with any confidence at around 6-5. He also faces several strong opponents, including Grade One-winning novice Shan Blue, a course-and-distance winner on this card last year who should have better still to come this season.
Ascot 3.20 The last two winners of this valuable handicap chase are in the line-up again on Saturday and Vinndication, successful two years ago, has much more to recommend him than the 13-year-old Regal Encore. Kim Bailey’s gelding is unbeaten in three runs at Ascot and has run well after a break several times in the past.
Wetherby 3.40 An opening official rating of 120 may underestimate Rattle Owl, whose comfortable success in a Sedgefield novice last month was franked when the third horse home won next time.