Northern-trained superstar Waiting Patiently is among the excellent entries for the £150,000 G1 Betfair Ascot Chase, staged over two miles and five furlongs at Ascot on Saturday, February 16, details of which are revealed today.
Waiting Patiently, the 5/4 favourite with Betfair and trained by Ruth Jefferson in Malton, North Yorkshire, came of age in the 2018 G1 Betfair Ascot Chase, 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 G1 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.
10-time champion jump trainer 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.
Politologue defeated Charbel (Kim Bailey, 10/1) narrowly in the G2 Christy 1965 Chase over the course and distance at Ascot in November before finishing fourth in the G1 King George VI Chase, while Cyrname galloped his rivals into the ground when taking a valuable handicap chase at Ascot by 21 lengths on January 19 under Harry Cobden.
Somerset-based Nicholls 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."
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.
The Irish-trained entry is Gigginstown House Stud-owned Balko Des Flos (Henry de Bromhead, 14/1), winner of the last season's G1 Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, who has yet to hit top form in three starts this season.
One Irish-trained horse has landed the Betfair Ascot Chase, with Sound Man taking the spoils for Edward O'Grady back in 1996.
Two-time G1 scorer Fox Norton (Colin Tizzard, 10/1), who missed the whole of 2018 through injury, shaped with promise on his comeback when second behind Altior in the G1 Clarence House Chase over two miles and one furlong at Ascot on January 19.
Other notable entries include Saint Calvados (Harry Whittington, 20/1), who has high-class form over two miles, and Hell's Kitchen (Harry Fry, 33/1), the winner of a handicap chase over two miles and three furlongs from Janika at Ascot just before Christmas.
Le Rocher (Nick Williams, 100/1) and Abolitionist (Dr Richard Newland, 100/1) complete the 13 contenders.
Betfair spokesman Barry Orr commented today: "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."