There’s plenty quality action on Saturday’s Ascot card and the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase (14:05) will be the first of their two Grade 2 events.
A total of five runners were declared, though the participation of Paul Nicholls’ Hitman is questionable as he also holds an entry in the Graduation Chase at Haydock on Saturday afternoon and that race is his first preference.
Williams’ star to hit the money
If he did turn up here, last month’s Old Roan Chase runner-up would present a serious challenge for the returning L’HOMME PRESSE (SP), though even then, preference would be for Venetia Williams’ two-time Grade 1-winning novice.
L’Homme Presse made a flying start last season to his chasing career, winning his first five starts.
One of those came over the Ascot C&D a week before Christmas but he marked himself down as potentially quite smart when leading his rivals a merry dance from the front in the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
He gave Charlie Deutsch a breakthrough at Grade 1 level in a facile Scilly Isles win at Sandown in early February and he was back at Cheltenham for The Festival in March, always racing handily and seeing off the talented Ahoy Senor by a comfortable three-plus lengths in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase over three miles.
There’s genuine optimism that L’Homme Presse can emerge as Britain’s leading Gold Cup contender this season and he’s already a 10/1 chance for Cheltenham in March.
Recent stable form is a minor concern (0-23 the previous fortnight) but Venetia Williams hasn’t had many fancied runners during that sequence and, in context, her string are running as might be expected. As is so often the case, we can expect to see a Williams runner turning up raring to go for a target such as this one.
Working from the assumption that Hitman will be some 200-miles north at Haydock, is there anything here to trouble L’Homme Presse?
Who can spoil the party?
Cheltenham-lover Coole Coody was pulled up after an early mistake in the Cotswolds last weekend. Seven of his eight career wins have come going left-handed and he’s now an 11-year-old with plenty to find on ratings taking on a rising star.
Do Your Job bagged a Grade 2 at Ayr in April to end a satisfactory novice campaign. He saw out the 2m4½f well but was beaten some 21 lengths last month in the Old Roan at Aintree on his comeback. He’s had his wind done again since, but an official rating of 145 leaves him nearly two stone shy of L’Homme Presse racing off levels now.
Saint Calvados had some smart form in 2019/20 for Harry Whittington including a neck-second behind Min in a Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham over this sort of trip.
His first three runs last season after moving to Paul Nicholls saw him finish third in the King George at Kempton before behind pulled up here in another Grade 1 and then fifth behind Fakir D’oudairies in the Marsh Chase at Aintree. He ended the term winning a Grade 2 at Sandown (2m6½), albeit beating a small and hardy distinguished field.
Since that, he’s been bought by David Maxwell, who will partner his new charge in this contest and is a very capable amateur rider. The Nicholls team typically do well in this contest and Saint Calvados looks the chief threat on paper to L’Homme Presse.
However, if there are genuine Gold Cup ambitions for the latter, he should put a disappointing end-of-season Aintree defeat firmly in his rear view mirror now – that run easily forgiven as it came at the end of a long season – and put away these rivals without major fuss.