Sprinter Sacre (right): no bigger than 1-5 for victory at Ascot on SaturdayPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Sanctuaire hot favourite at Ascot - without Sacre
THE sponsor is happy for the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot to remain a level-weights Grade 1 contest, but on Monday BetVictor gave punters a much-needed alternative to backing or opposing 1-6 favourite Sprinter Sacre.
Jump racing's star performer has a maximum eight rivals, but those hoping for a lively each-way heat - as BetVictor themselves are - are very likely to be disappointed, with a couple of the outsiders, His Excellency and Mad Moose, holding alternative engagements and others with question marks against their participation.
The Victor Chandler was a handicap prior to 2007, and were it still then Sprinter Sacre would have to concede 12lb to Sanctuaire and a stone to last year's winner Somersby - though of course connections might not have chosen to contest the Ascot race in those circumstances.
Sanctuaire, who was routed by Sprinter Sacre in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, was installed 5-4 favourite in betting without Sprinter Sacre, with Somersby 13-8, Wishfull Thinking 5-1 and Kumbeshwar 6s.
BetVictor spokesman Charlie McCann said: "Sanctuaire was no match for Sprinter Sacre in the Tingle Creek but he is still our 5-4 favourite to win or finish second to the favourite on Saturday.
"Last year's winner Somersby will have his first start for Mick Channon at the weekend and if in the same form as he was 12 months ago must have his supporters at 13-8, although he was, subsequently, beaten out of sight by the Paul Nicholls-trained runner at Sandown when possibly not at his very best."
Chris Stickels: unclear forecastPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
What snow that fell at Ascot during Sunday night was gone by Monday night, but the forecast remains cold.
Clerk of the course Chris Stickels said: "We had a dusting of snow this morning and it snowed during the day, but it melted as it touched the ground, putting 4mm in the rain gauge.
"It's not been as cold either. We have a couple of -5C forecasts for Wednesday and Thursday morning, and less cold for Friday and Saturday, although the picture remains a little unclear."
Most firms joined those already betting on the Victor Chandler before Monday, with the favourite 1-6, except with William Hill, who offered 1-5. It is 20-1 bar the Racing Post Arkle winner, Sanctuaire and Somersby, who are both set to take him on.
BetVictor also sponsor the extended £70,000 2m5f handicap chase at Ascot, several of whose entries are also engaged in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock.
Venetia Williams-trained Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup entry Katenko heads the market for the Peter Marsh at 9-2 with Betfred, ahead of fellow Gold Cup hope Bold Sir Brian at 5-1, but Paddy Power made Bold Sir Brian 7-2 favourite, quoting Katenko at 9-2.
Our Mick could make his debut in either the Ascot race or the Peter Marsh, for which he is best at 8-1 with Betfred.
Trainer Donald McCain said on Monday: "He'll go to Haydock subject to it being on."
Of prospects for the fixture, which is due to form the Channel 4 double header with Ascot, Haydock clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright said on Monday: "We'd have been able to race today but the forecast isn't great; it's getting increasingly cold, with the risk of snow, and we might have a couple of nights at -6C."