IN SUMMARY: Top Notch is an obvious starting point after his course and distance demolition of a Grade 2 in November, holding Frodon by ten lengths. He has won another Grade 2 since and may have even more to offer, so he’s considered, but the selection is WAITING PATIENTLY. He is unbeaten in five starts over fences and has improved exponentially this campaign with two ready victories. There is no telling where his progression finishes and although this is his toughest test yet, he should have no problem rising to the occasion.
Coney Island | J: Barry Geraghty T: Edward P. Harty, Ireland
Seven year old who returned this season with an easy victory over course and distance. The form of that race is certainly up for debate but he did it well and he's entitled to build on that run. Softer ground is fine and we haven't seen the best of him yet. Has a lofty reputation and a big run is expected from him.
Cue Card | J: Paddy Brennan T: Colin Tizzard
Bids to claim his third renewal, winning in 2013 and 2017. He has been out of form in two runs this season and at the age of twelve, you'd have to cast doubt about whether he's capable of his sparkling best. A drop to this trip is fine, but he looks vulnerable to some younger, improving horses.
Frodon | J: Bryony Frost T: Paul Nicholls
Running at his peak this season, improving once again to win a Grade 3 Handicap in tremendous style. He jumped brilliantly and came clear readily when asked. This is a completely different challenge but he's clearly progressive and he should relish the test. He's placed on both his previous Ascot visits and shouldn't be dismissed entirely.
Speredek | J: Sean Bowen T: Nigel Hawke
Progressive handicapper who posted a career best to finish second in the Clarence House last month. He now steps up in distance which isn't necessarily a positive and he does need sizeable improvement to live with some smart horses. Likely to be outclassed on the day by at least a few of these.
Top Notch | J: Daryl Jacob T: Nicky Henderson
Has really taken off this season, winning two Grade 2 races in impressive style. The first came over course and distance and the form of that race has taken two big boosts, including by Frodon. He should still have more to offer and with conditions perfect, he's an obvious contender at a track where he is unbeaten.
Traffic Fluide | J: Joshua Moore T: Gary Moore
Looked very promising earlier in his chasing career but things have gone astray this season. He has been tailed off the last twice in Grade 1 races and although he's surely capable of better, even at his best he'd still have something to find with the protagonists.
Waiting Patiently | J: Brian Hughes T: Ruth Jefferson
Unbeaten in five starts over fences, winning a Listed Chase on his latest start in comfortable fashion. He's been highly progressive and a further step up in distance is no concern. He goes on softer ground and we haven't seen the best of him yet. This is his toughest test, but he should have no problem rising to the occasion.