Waiting Patiently is the 5/4 favourite with the sponsors after entries for the £150,000 Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase were revealed today. Here's the lowdown...
""Having frustratingly unseated Brian Hughes in the King George, last year's winner, Waiting Patiently, has been installed favourite at 5/4, with Politologue, his nearest pursuer in the betting, at 5/2. Top Notch is one that has had this race as his target since winning in Kempton and the 4/1 about him is attracting some attention."
Recovery mission following Kempton mishap
Ruth Jefferson's stable star came of age in the 2018 renewal of the race when he defeated defending champion Cue Card by just under three lengths to register his first success at the highest level.
After missing the rest of last season due to injury, Waiting Patiently has been seen out once this term in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
In what was his first attempt over three miles, he did not have the chance to prove his stamina after being badly hampered and unseating regular rider Brian Hughes at the ninth fence.
That was the eight-year-old's first defeat over fences - he had won his previous six starts over the bigger obstacles.
Nicholls aiming for fourth win
Paul Nicholls has won the Betfair Ascot Chase three times, including with the great Kauto Star in 2008, and is going after a record-equalling fourth victory in the G1 race with G1 Melling Chase victor Politologue (5/2) and Cyrname (8/1), an impressive course and distance winner last time out.
The Betfair Ambassador said: "Cyrname came out of his win at Ascot in good form. He is a lovely horse who has improved enormously this season. He wasn't quite right in the autumn and has always been quite tricky to train.
"He can be very free, but for whatever reason, he has started to settle and we were able to take the hood off him at Ascot and train him completely differently with a normal routine.
"That has made a big difference to him and he is a big, progressive horse who has been improving mentally all the time. I was very impressed with that Ascot win.
"We have to go right-handed with Cyrname and he will now go for the Betfair Ascot Chase.
"Politologue was always going to go for the Betfair Ascot Chase and that remains the plan. He likes Ascot and is also a horse who does appreciate going right-handed.
"It will be very interesting to see how both of them get on and we are looking forward to it."
Two for Hendo
Champion jump trainer Nicky Henderson has also enjoyed three Betfair Ascot Chase successes, including back-to-back renewals with Riverside Theatre in 2011 and 2012.
The Lambourn handler has two entries in 2019 - three-time Ascot winner Top Notch (4/1), who was fourth to Waiting Patiently last year and landed a Listed chase at Kempton Park on January 12, plus recent Cheltenham runner-up Janika (33/1).
Rejuvenated chaser Aso (Venetia Williams, 12/1) is on course for Betfair Ascot Chase after winning both of his starts in handicaps under Charlie Deutsch this season, when making most of the running, latterly defying top-weight in a G3 contest at Cheltenham on January 1.
Betfair spokesman Barry Orr said: "Having frustratingly unseated Brian Hughes in the King George, last year's winner, Waiting Patiently, has been installed favourite at 5/4, with Politologue, his nearest pursuer in the betting, at 5/2.
"Top Notch is one that has had this race as his target since winning in Kempton and the 4/1 about him is attracting some attention."
Betfair Ascot Chase - Latest Betting
5/4 Waiting Patiently
4/1 Top Notch
10/1 Fox Norton
14 Balko Des Flos
20/1 Saint Calvados
33/1 Hell's Kitchen
100/1 Le Rocher
Betfair Sportsbook odds, correct as of 13:00 on January 30