Victor Chandler Chase Preview

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Published: 07/01/2012

The Grade One Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot is widely regarded as an acid test for any aspiring two mile Champion chasers and the 2012 renewal will be no different as connections step up their plans and preparations for the Cheltenham Festival in March.

As it stands, the two mile chase division looks extremely strong and this race should well provide a whole host of Festival clues especially considering that there will be a couple of exciting novices thrown into the equation.

Finians Rainbow and Al Ferof are both currently vying for favouritism it the ante-post market however it could well be the latter, trained by Paul Nicholls, who holds the best claims.

Al Ferof showed extreme class at the Cheltenham Festival last season, romping up the hill at Prestbury Park to a superb Supreme Novices Hurdle success at the expense of Spirit Son and Sprinter Sacre – as well as the highly regarded Cue Card who was well beaten in fourth.

Nicholls subsequently decided to send Al Ferof novice chasing instead of going down the Champion Hurdle route and that decision already appears to be a wise one.

After hosing up in a Grade Two novice event at Cheltenham in November, Al Ferof then went on to beat the well thought of For Non Stop in impressive fashion in the Grade One Henry VIII Novices Chase at Sandown.

Those victories have got the world of jump racing talking and there is even a suggestion that Al Ferof could bypass an intended Arkle assignment to take his hand in the Champion Chase – despite still being a novice and relatively inexperienced in comparison to the likes of Big Zeb and Sizing Europe.

Those calls may prove to be a little ambitious and optimistic and Champion trainer Nicholls is likely to remain realistic by aiming Al Ferof at the two mile novice championship.

Nevertheless, a positive showing in this company could well give the Ditcheat handler a real headache and the grey is fancied to make his presence felt at a best priced 3/1 judging by thetremendous start he has made to his chasing career.

Finians Rainbow, from the Nicky Henderson yard, has some solid form in the book, epitomised by his second place finish in last year’s Arkle behind Captain Chris.

After following up at Aintree in April, the nine-year-old returned to the track at Kempton in December and looked in good knick when claiming the Grade Two Desert Orchid Chase by the best part of a length to Wishful Thinking.

Al Ferof should certainly prove to be the real deal if he can finish in front of Finians Rainbow however the aforementioned Wishful Thinking should not be discounted.

Although he has yet to get his head in front this season, there is a real feeling that Phillip Hobbs’ charge is merely taking time to warm to the task and he could be dangerous at a best priced 9/1.

There is a slight worry however that despite the horse being nine years of age, Hobbs still does not quite know what his best trip is – but this race should at least provide some solid answers in time for the Festival.

The same notion applies to the highly tried Somersby; however Henrietta Knight’s charge appears to have had his limitations exposed at a range of distances including this minimum trip.

Meanwhile, Gauvain’s Peterborough Chase victory does not look the best form whilst Forpaddytheplasterer may be vulnerable to a couple of the younger, improving types.

Kauto Stone, currently at a best priced 6/1, could be a major threat however and his fine second to current Champion Chaser Sizing Europe in the Tingle Creek puts him bang there with a chance on the form book.


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