Vautour makes his eagerly anticipated return in Ascot’s Stella Artois 1965 Chase tomorrow and tackles just four rivals.
The scintillating JLT Novices Chases winner travels to Berkshire as a warm favourite for further top honours.
Jockey Ruby Walsh continues his partnership with the horse, and is excited by the Gold Cup prospects’ return to action.
” He seems well, he worked well on Tuesday morning and the conditions of the race in Ascot suit.”
Vautour is currently favourite for Kempton’s King George and Walsh is keen to see the son of Robin Des Champs progress from tomorrow to the Boxing Day showpiece.
“The King George should tell you where you’re going. If you don’t win the King George you’re probably not going to win the Gold Cup, so that will probably guide us.”
Paul Nicholls has won four of the last five runnings of this event – Al Ferof and Master Minded victorious twice each – and the champion trainer saddles Ptit Zig this year. A winner of five of his seven starts over fences, the six year old arrives at Ascot on the back of a Grade Two victory in Ireland for which he must carry a 5lb penalty. Ptit Zig, too, has been touted as King George horse and a clash against Vautour will tell connections where they stand against the top horses in this sphere.
Former RSA Chase winner O’Faolains Boy makes an eagerly awaited return after 596 days off the track for Rebecca Curtis.
His return from injury has been delayed by the ground, Curtis said: “He’s a horse that has to have soft ground.”
Curtis is aiming high for this season with a horse that is full of promise and will undoubtedly come on for the run: “After that we’ll look towards the Hennessy. That’s his main target.”
Haldon Gold Cup runner-up Third Intention lines up for Colin Tizzard, who seeks a big Saturday double with Cue Card heading to Haydock for the Betfair Chase.
The race is completed by Charlie Mann’s consistent Seventh Sky who is yet to win at this level.