Can anything stop Cue Card from winning this Grade 1?
With stablemates Thistlecrack, Native River and Alary having completed their final tests before the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, the spotlight on Saturday falls on Cue Card, who gets his chance to impress or otherwise in the Betfair Ascot Chase on Saturday.
Off since chasing home the flamboyant Thistlecrack in the King George VI Chase, Cue Card will face a maximum of six rival. Here we assess their chances of toppling Cue Card...
Horse: Kylemore Lough
Trainer: Kerry Lee
Chance of beating Cue Card: 6/10
Talented and enjoys soft ground. Best run of the season came when just failing to catch Royal Regatta at Ascot in November. Ran well in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham before blowing chance by racing too keenly in the Cotswold Chase. Interesting, but still likely to struggle.
Trainer: Rebecca Curtis
Chance of beating Cue Card: 5/10
The future looked so bright for Irish Cavalier at the start of the season. He put up a game performance to beat Cue Card in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and connections were bullish going into the Betfair Chase. However, he was slammed by Cue Card there and showed little more when a distant third in a Listed chase at Aintree in December and has been off since. His best efforts seem to coincide with better ground and there seems little prospect of that at Ascot with the ground soft, albeit this week is due to be warmer than last.
Taquin Du Seuil
Trainer: Jonjo O'Neill
Chance of beating Cue Card: 4/10
Generally regarded as a good old boy, unless you happen to have something to do with Village Vic, who he nailed on the line in the BetVictor Gold Cup in November. Has performed well this season, but was beaten far enough in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and wouldn't appear to possess enough class to beat Cue Card.
Trainer: Philip Hobbs
Chance of beating Cue Card: 3/10
For a horse with a regal name it seems appropriate that he saves his best for Ascot. Described as "a little bit soft" by Sarah Hobbs after his win at the course in November, Royal Regatta needs everything to go his way. Even if it does, there still needs to be a lot that goes wrong with Cue Card to hand this horse victory.
Trainer: Rebecca Curtis
Chance of beating Cue Card: 2/10
Stays well and has run well on both starts for Rebecca Curtis this season at Cheltenham, winning on New Year's Day and finishing fourth on trials day. However, that is handicap form and he seemed to struggle for pace on his last outing, which makes the idea of him being able to handle the speed of a Grade 1 all the more unlikely.
Trainer: Gary Moore
Chance of beating Cue Card: 0/10 or 7/10
Much the best of the rivals in terms of talent, but is fragile. He raced with great enthusiasm at Newbury on Saturday but was ultimately well beaten by Altior. Whether he turns out again just seven days later is the question. If he does, then he would be a big danger, if not then he will not be a danger at all.