Crunchsports.com's guide to Saturday's Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot (15:10 GMT) courtesy of Bettingpro.com tipster Ross Aylward...
With chasers trained in Ireland currently dominating the 2m chase division, the door is open for a British chaser to assume dominance of the domestic scene and this afternoon's Victor Chandler Chase provides plenty of likely candidates.
They are headed, at least according to the betting, by the Nicky Henderson-trained Finian's Rainbow, who was one of last season's novice finds, suffering his only defeat in the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, when worn down by the late challenge of Captain Chris. With that horse stepping up in distance this season with a crack at the Gold Cup on the agenda, the nine-year-old could take this en route to the Champion Chase and he warmed up in perfect style when coming from behind (for a change) to beat the re-opposing Wishfull Thinking and Oiseau De Nuit by three quarters and one and three quarters of a length respectively at Kempton.
On that form, he should hold the second and third again, although Wishfull Thinking probably ran below par that day and is almost certainly capable of better. Whether the favourite is a value bet is highly debatable, though. He does take the odd liberty with his fences (nearly came down four out at Ascot) and won't be able to get away with such shoddy jumping in this company, which includes one of this season's star novices in Al Ferof. The latter dished out an easy beating to Astracad (a winner since) on his reappearance at Cheltenham, and then made rather heavy work of beating For Non Stop at Sandown on his next start. That was probably not his true running and it is evidence of his connections' faith in him that they've pitched him at Grade 1 level on what is only his third chase start, but lack of experience might just find him out.
SOMERSBY, on the other hand with plenty of runs over the bigger obstacles under his belt, including when finishing runner-up to Master Minded in this contest 12 months ago. That was another placed effort from Henrietta's charge and he's probably earned his tag of a 'nearly' horse, but there are reasons to think he can get his head in front this time. For one, he is the best horse in the race on official ratings, with at least 4lb in hand over the field. Furthermore, two of his best runs have come at this track, the other being when runner-up (again!) to Master Minded in a Grade 2 in November. I see connections are resorting to first-time cheekpieces and they could make the difference between winning and losing.
Of the rest, Gauvain is interesting on the form of his Peterborough Chase win in early December but this is a big step up and he has place prospects at best. I'm not convinced Forpadydeplasterer is totally in love with the game and the remaining runner I'm So Lucky doesn't look good enough.