Ryanair runner-up Aso brings leading form claims into the Grade 2 Peterborough Chase over an extended 2m 3f at Huntingdon on Sunday (14:00).
Although the oldest in the six-runner line-up, this Venetia Williams trained nine-year-old comes out 7lb and upwards clear of his rivals on official figures.
Aso is the top rated horse here and earned his mark of 168 with a massive effort in defeat at the Cheltenham Festival.
After winning on reappearance at Newbury last season, the son of Goldneyev followed-up in a Grade 3 handicap on New Year’s Day around Prestbury Park.
Aso gave Happy Diva a whopping 21lbs and a two lengths beating, and the runner-up has since landed the BetVictor Gold Cup.
While he trailed in last of six to Cyrname – now the highest rated jumps horse in training – in the Ascot Chase, Aso belied massive odds of 33/1 when just collared up the Cheltenham hill by Frodon in the Ryanair.
Ryanair form best on offer
He had some top class sorts in-behind, including the third home Road To Respect who has since landed the Grade 1 Down Royal Champion Chase.
Un De Sceaux, who was fifth in the Ryanair, scored a second Punchestown Champion Chase triumph when last in action too. That gives the form a very strong look.
Aso was also far from disgraced when third to Ballyoptic, who had the benefit of a run, in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in testing conditions on reappearance.
Again, the form looks good in the context of the Peterborough Chase as the runner-up, Elegant Escape, went on to place off top-weight in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.
Aso probably didn’t quite stay in the Yorkshire mud, so the drop back from 3m to this intermediate trip is a plus.
Williams’ stable has also been among the winners of late and came into the weekend on a 19 per cent strike rate in the previous 14 days.
With regular pilot Charlie Deutsch in the plate, Aso looks a bit of value for Peterborough Chase success at 3/1 with Boylesports. He is the one to beat on figures.
La Bague Au Roi a danger if bouncing back
Lambourn trainer Warren Greatrex aims for the Best Mate Bonus offered by race sponsors Fitzdare bookmakers for any horse who wins this, then the King George at Kempton and Cheltenham Gold Cup with La Bague Au Roi.
This tough, consistent mare was one of the best novice chasers in the British Isles last season. La Bague Au Roi took to fences well with quickfire victories around Newbury.
As the second of those was a Grade 2, she then got pitched in at the highest level and landed the 3m Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day.
She had the likes of subsequent Grade 1 winners like Lostintranslation and Topofthegame in-behind in those.
La Bague Au Roi then went over to Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festiva for the Flogas Novice Chase and completed the four-timer.
However, when encountering a flat, sharp track at Aintree she was turned over by Kalashnikov in the Manifesto.
Huntingdon, although right-handed, is a similar course that may not play to the strengths of La Bague Au Roi.
Judged on the way she shaped at Kempton, she is arguably better over further on tracks like these.
Something was amiss when La Bague Au Roi lined up against Aso in the Charlie Hall on reappearance.
Champion jockey Richard Johnson adopted unusual hold-up tactics on this daughter of Doctor Dino that were completely at odds with her previous racing style.
La Bague Au Roi, who is a course hurdles winner, preferred a prominent position during her novice chase campaign.
She was never travelling with her usual fluency at any stage around Wetherby and got pulled up.
If putting a line through that effort, however, La Bague Au Roi is a big danger to Aso off bottom-weight at odds of 9/4 with BetVictor here.
Top Notch respected in Peterborough Chase
Top Notch took the race two years ago when it was run at Taunton. This Nicky Henderson trained eight-year-old is very useful over both hurdles and fences, so commands respect.
As the closest to Aso on official ratings, Top Notch’s claims are obvious. He just bested Mares’ Hurdle heroine Roksana over the smaller obstacles at Aintree on reappearance, so is race-fit like his main market rivals.
When landing the 2017 Peterborough Chase, he was following-up on success in the similar grade 1965 Chase at Ascot.
Top Notch went on round off that campaign with a third victory at this level in the Oaksey Chase over further around Sandown.
After coming a fine third to champion stayer Paisley Park in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on reappearance, he beat last season’s Peterborough Chase winner Charbel in a Listed affair around Kempton.
While a spring campaign didn’t work out for Top Notch, this is easier than the Stayers’ Hurdle or Melling Chase.
He is rated 11lb better over fences than the smaller obstacles, so odds of 5/2 with Betway say he could regain the title he took at Taunton.
There’s no each way value to be had on this race. Charbel is penalised for his victory 12 months ago and in nothing like the same form now as then. Top Notch should confirm Kempton form off 2lb better terms.
Born Survivor’s trainer Dan Skelton has won the Peterborough Chase before with Al Ferof in 2015, but it was nothing like as hot a renewal as this. It demands a career best from him and rank outsider Kauto Riko just to make the frame.