Finian's Rainbow: a best-priced 7-1 chance for the Ryanair ChasePICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Finian's on recovery mission in Ascot Chase
FINIAN'S RAINBOW will attempt to prove his seasonal reappearance in November was too bad to be true, as Nicky Henderson's ten-year-old returns to action for the first time since then in the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase.
Last year's Champion Chase winner finished last of four, beaten 24 lengths by Captain Chris in the Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot, and has since undergone a minor wind operation.
As such, Saturday's 2m5½f contest is being used as a pointer as to whether Finian's Rainbow will head for the Ryanair rather than defending his Champion Chase crown against stablemate Sprinter Sacre at the Cheltenham Festival.
Henderson said: "He is in everything and I hope this will tell us where to go but the ground is an issue. We didn't run him in the King George and he was disappointing earlier on on soft ground
"We've tried to get him back and he seems in good form. This will put him right for something but I don't know what. I would seriously prefer better ground but it's the only race he can run in."
King George runner-up Captain Chris will renew rivalry with his trainer Philip Hobbs unconcerned by a drop in trip.
This season the Betfred Gold Cup is the nine-year-old's Cheltenham Festival target, having finished fourth in the Ryanair in 2012.
Hobbs said: "We always had in mind to run in the Gold Cup so didn't put him in the Ryanair. After the King George we were always going to run in this race anyway which is nearly two months further down the line so he had a few easy weeks after Kempton. He seems absolutely fine. He stayed on well enough in the King George and this trip shouldn't be problem."
Also on Ascot's card is the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices' Chase, while Haydock's meeting features the Betfred Grand National Trial in which Coral Welsh National one-two Monbeg Dude and Teaforthree will do battle again.
If that was not enough Celestial Halo and Khyber Kim both return to the action for the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, for which Zarkandar is the odds-on favourite.