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Dashel Drasher records landmark Ascot Chase victory

Dashel Drasher delivered a famous Grade One success for trainer Jeremy Scott and jockey Matt Griffiths in the Betfair Ascot Chase.

The front-running eight-year-old, scoring over course and distance for the third time in succession, took on favourite Cyrname early on the final circuit and then outpointed the latter’s stablemate Master Tommytucker up the straight to win by a hard-fought two lengths.

Dashel Drasher, sent off at 4-1, jumped well throughout and, after mastering Cyrname – who was again disappointing and quickly faded to be pulled up – he battled all the way to the line to keep Paul Nicholls’ second string at bay by two lengths.

Somerset trainer Scott was understandably emotional as he reflected on just his second Grade One win – and first in eight years – with a horse he bred as well as trains.

“This is very special, and you could say it was our Gold Cup,” he said.

“I don’t often get emotional, but I definitely had a bit of a welling up there as he won.

“My wife (Camilla) bred his dam – and she went on to win five point-to-points in a row.

“It’s a great thrill – but we had to think we were tilting at windmills against Cyrname.”

Scott need not have worried about that as Griffiths’ determination to put pressure on the favourite from the outset paid off, with Cyrname again failing to rediscover the form which made him the top-rated chaser in Britain after a wide-margin win in this race two years ago.

“At home, he doesn’t blow your socks off – but on the racecourse, he digs deep, doesn’t he,” Scott added.

“Our plan was to put Cyrname under pressure, go out hard and fast.

“But we fluffed the first fence, and Cyrname looked to be cruising away with it.

“But as soon as we got upsides him and went half a length up, he wilted.”

Dashel Drasher, previously successful in handicap and Graduation company this season, was taking a steep rise in class – and also had to turn round Haydock form with Master Tommytucker, who had beaten him by almost 20 lengths there in November.

He has a Cheltenham Festival option in the Ryanair Chase but is no certainty to be going there – this year, at least.

“He’s in the Ryanair Chase, but let’s get him home and see how he is before making any plans,” said Scott.

Matt Griffiths riding Dashel Drasher clear the last but had to battle hard all the way to the line
Matt Griffiths riding Dashel Drasher clear the last but had to battle hard all the way to the line (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He had an injury last year, so we’re not that keen to over-race him.”

Scott reserved praise for Griffiths, adding: “It’s great for Matt, who is a stalwart.

“He broke this horse in, as he does most of the horses, and is an integral part of the team.”

There were some anxious moments on the run-in, after Dashel Drasher made his only slight mistake and then began to look vulnerable – but as he has previously, he found more when asked.

Scott added: “In fairness to the horse, every time he has run here, he has done exactly the same thing – and Matt has always said ‘he’s always got a little bit left up his sleeve’.

“So that was kind of what I was hoping – but I have to say, watching it, I wasn’t quite sure. It didn’t look great!”

Griffiths felt he had to be slightly more conservative at the fences than on earlier Ascot visits with Dashel Drasher.

“Today his jumping was efficient, but that’s all,” he said.

“I couldn’t chuck him at the fences like I’d done before.”

The looming presence of Daryl Jacob on Master Tommytucker was an evident concern too, entering the straight, and Dashel Drasher had to be brave as well as accurate to see off the smooth-travelling runner-up.

Griffiths added: “I was wary coming into the straight that Daryl, was right behind me – and when my horse missed the last it was a relief when he picked up again.

“I’ve been part of his life since the first day he ran, so it’s massive to be associated with the horse.

“It’s a dream for everyone at the yard – and especially for Jeremy, because it is his first Grade One win for quite a while, and it makes it extra special that he’s a home-bred.”

Dashel Drasher has improved dramatically at Ascot of late, despite often jumping slightly left, and Griffiths does not anticipate a significant preference to race right-handed will dictate future plans.

He said: “I think he’ll be fine going the other way – even though he does tend to jump to the left, he never does it violently, and I thought he was a bit straighter today.

“If that was his last run of the season it wouldn’t be the end of the world – because next year he will stay further and he could be a Charlie Hall or Hennessy (Ladbrokes Trophy) horse.”

In the British Horseracing Authority stewards report following the race, a respiratory issued was cited by a representative of Nicholls for the performance of Cyrname.

Cyrname leads the way in Ascot Chase field

Cyrname heads a field of five as he bids to regain his Betfair Ascot Chase crown on Saturday.

Paul Nicholls’ chaser won the race in devastating style in 2019, but was beaten when falling 12 months ago.

His season started in perfect fashion this time around with an easy victory in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, but he disappointed in the King George on Boxing Day and needs to bounce back.

Having worn a hood in his early days due to his exuberant tendencies, Nicholls has declared the nine-year-old in cheekpieces.

Of the decision to run in cheekpieces, Nicholls told Sky Sports Racing: “I just think he was getting a bit lazy, racing behind the bridle, which isn’t like him.

“We worked him in them, and they made a big improvement. It’s just to sharpen him up really.

“He’d just got lazy. He used to be a tearaway and very free in his races, but it certainly sharpened him up in his work.

“Obviously he’s a challenge to train in lots of ways. When he’s right he’s a very good horse, and hopefully he’ll run like he did in the Charlie Hall.

“If he has a hard race this weekend it’s too close to Cheltenham, so Aintree may well suit him well, but let’s get this out of the way. The Oaksey Chase at Sandown could suit him too.”

Master Tommytucker appears to have ironed out his jumping issues
Master Tommytucker appears to have ironed out his jumping issues (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Nicholls also runs Master Tommytucker – who will be ridden by Daryl Jacob, with Harry Cobden aboard Cyrname.

“He’s in great form and looks good,” said Nicholls.

“He doesn’t have to make it (the running). He can take a lead, but they’ll be going a good gallop if Cyrname is at his best, (so) hopefully Tommy can slot in just behind him.

“He’s a very talented horse in his own right. I think he’ll run very well.

“Sam Twiston-Davies has won on him but had to ride his dad’s horse, so I’m looking forward to seeing how Daryl gets on with him.”

Riders Onthe Storm was a good winner of the race last year
Riders Onthe Storm was a good winner of the race last year (Julian Herbert/PA)

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Riders Onthe Storm had gone clear of Cyrname before the latter’s exit in last year’s event.

At the time he was on the crest of a wave, but he has struggled to recapture his best form so far this season.

One horse certainly on the up is Jeremy Scott’s Dashel Drasher, who has won his last two races over course and distance. This represents a big step up in class, but the eight-year-old has always been a promising type.

Matt Griffiths riding Dashel Drasher clear to win at Ascot last time out
Matt Griffiths riding Dashel Drasher clear to win at Ascot last time out (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Just behind him last time was Dan Skelton’s Bennys King, and the pair meet again.

Six have been declared for the Bateaux London Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase, in which Fergal O’Brien’s Hurricane Harvey has to carry a penalty for his victory at Doncaster.

Oliver Sherwood’s Sevarano takes his chance, while Kalooki represents Philip Hobbs.

Kerry Lee’s Demachine, Gary Moore’s Full Back and the David Pipe-trained Remastered complete the field.

Nicky Henderson’s Gallyhill runs in the opening greatbritishstallionshowcase.co.uk Novices’ Hurdle, with Ascot specialist Regal Encore carrying top-weight in the ‘My Oddsboost’ On Betfair Swinley Chase.

Ascot or Newbury poser for Dashel Drasher

Jeremy Scott was facing a sleepless night on Wednesday deciding whether to send stable star Dashel Drasher to Ascot or Newbury this weekend.

With two wins at Ascot over the two-mile-five-furlong trip of the Betfair Ascot Chase already under his belt this season, that might look the more suitable option. However, Scot is giving serious consideration to the rescheduled Grade Two Denman Chase at Newbury, which would mean a step up to three miles for the first time.

“We have still to decide where to go. He’s a shorter price for the Denman which would indicate somebody thinks he has a better chance in that,” said Scott.

“It’s whether we’d be disadvantaged by running at Newbury. At Ascot he’s won despite jumping a little left.

“If you’d asked me at the beginning of the season where would you rather run, I’d have said Newbury would suit him better.

“We ruled the Denman out originally as it was coming too soon after his last run, but then it reopened and it’s likely to be better ground.

“Would it be daft to run in the Denman? I don’t know, he has been very good around Ascot and it does suit him as he can swing down the hill and get enough back in the tank to come back up the hill. Maybe that suits him.

“If we hadn’t had the confusion of the Denman we’d definitely be at Ascot, as it’s an opportunity to run in a Grade One and if one or two underperformed and we upped our game then it would be happy days.”

Ascot braced for testing ground – but no threat to racing

Clerk of the course Chris Stickels is confident the winter weather will spare this weekend’s Betfair Ascot Chase meeting.

Heavy rain caused abandonments for waterlogging at several courses this month, before the cold spell then wiped out the jumps fixture list last week.

Stickels does not anticipate Saturday’s card at Ascot will come under threat, however – with much of the snow thawed already on ground currently varying between soft and heavy.

“We’re still thawing – we were frozen solid yesterday lunchtime, and this morning we’re 90 per cent thawed,” he said.

“There’s a little bit of frozen ground right in front of the grandstand, where there’s normally shadow.

“We are a mixture of soft and heavy in places – otherwise we anticipate that all that frost will have come out of the ground by later this afternoon.”

A combination of melting snow and further rain will inevitably nonetheless make for very testing ground.

“It does leave it fairly wet at the moment,” added Stickels.

“We had (that) bit of snow at the beginning of last week, and there is further rain forecast this week.

“With the rain we have forecast, I wouldn’t imagine it would be a threat to us at all, but it will leave it testing.

“We’ve got about 20mm in rain (forecast) through until Friday. Saturday at this stage looks dry – albeit it is a while away, and things can change.

“That will leave us with similar ground to now – a mixture of soft and heavy. Which way (round) it’ll be will depend on the nature of the rainfall.”

Cobden keeps faith in Cyrname’s Ascot class

Harry Cobden is backing Cyrname to revisit his impressive winning performance in the 2019 Betfair Ascot Chase when he contests this season’s renewal of the race.

Cyrname was a facile 17-length winner of Saturday’s Grade One for Paul Nicholls two years ago, leaving high-class horses such as Waiting Patiently and Politologue in his wake and earning himself a mark of 176 – as Britain’s highest-rated jumps horse.

His 2020 title defence ended with a shuddering fall when already well beaten by Riders Onthe Storm, but he looked as good as ever as he cruised to victory in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October.

Kempton’s King George VI Chase was the next port of call, in which Cobden’s mount was below par and pulled up as stablemate Frodon instead stormed to victory.

Cobden is consequently keen to take a different approach this weekend and plans to keep the nine-year-old among the leading group from the outset in a race for which there were 10 confirmations on Monday – including another from Nicholls’ powerhouse yard, Master Tommytucker, and also Riders Onthe Storm.

In a call hosted by Great British Racing, Cobden said: “I think we might adopt slightly different tactics in that we might ride him slightly more aggressively.

“We don’t necessarily have to make it (the running), but I don’t really want an episode of Kempton last time.

“I wasn’t very happy with my position the whole way round, because I was probably too far back. I made a bit of a move, but I was too wide – although I didn’t have any other option – so I had to go round a few horses in front of me.

“He winged the ditch, he jumped it very well, and then he missed the last fence down the back – and that was our race over.

Cyrname also took the measure of the mighty Altior in last season's Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot
Cyrname also took the measure of the mighty Altior in last season’s Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot (PA)

“I didn’t really want to carry on for the sake of carrying on, (so) we just pulled him up and saved him for another day.”

Cyrname appeared slightly reluctant at the start in the King George.

Cobden added: “I had the perfect position down at the start, but Cyrnname wasn’t that keen to jump off for some reason – I couldn’t tell you why.

“I was slow away and jumped the first quite slowly – and before you know it, we were sixth or seventh, too far out the back.

“He just didn’t really feel to me like he wanted to go. But he came out of the race absolutely bouncing – and he went into the race bouncing – and we couldn’t find anything wrong with him afterwards.”

While Cyrname is bidding to bounce back from that disappointment, Nicholls’ Master Tommytucker was most impressive when last seen claiming Kempton’s Grade Two Silviniaco Conti Chase by an emphatic 12 lengths.

That form provided Cobden with something of a headache when it came to picking his mount this weekend, but he has opted to stick with Cyrname and his solid course-and-distance form.

“Going into the race, he is obviously the one to beat on paper – looking at the entries it’s quite a competitive little race,” he said.

“Paul runs Master Tommytucker, and there are quite a few other good horses. So by no means is it an easy race – but I think Cyrname is the worthy favourite.

“If Master Tommytucker turned up and absolutely blew them away it wouldn’t surprise me – he’s got a serious engine in there.

“If he gets in a good rhythm and he starts jumping well and everything’s going his way, he’ll be very hard to pass.

“Paul’s always said it, and I totally agree, there is a massive race in that horse at some stage this season.

“Whether it’s on Saturday, I don’t know, but I think he will turn up and win a Grade One shortly.”

Master Tommytucker is also on course to represent Paul Nicholls on Saturday
Master Tommytucker is also on course to represent Paul Nicholls on Saturday (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

That potential gave Cobden much to ponder before he chose Cyrname this weekend.

“It was quite a tough decision, actually,” he said.

“(But) the thing is, Cyrname’s been to Ascot and he’s done it.

“If he turns up with three-quarters of the ability he had when he won there two years ago, he’s going to be hard to pass.

“I’m a believer and I’m confident he’s going to turn up and run his race.

Colin Tizzard's Lostintranslation may prove another tough opponent this weekend
Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation may prove another tough opponent this weekend (Anthony Devlin/PA)

“He’s going there in tip-top condition and hopefully he can give us a bit of a showdown and reproduce what he did two years ago.”

On the ratings, Cyrname’s toughest opponent is the Colin Tizzard-trained Lostintranslation – who will be dropping down in trip if he runs on Saturday.

Winner of last season’s Betfair Chase, Lostintranslation was only narrowly beaten in the Gold Cup in March but was a distant third in his Betfair defence in November – and once again failed to run his race in the King George.

As well as Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Riders Onthe Storm, Cyrname may again face Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados – a close second in last year’s Ryanair Chase and fourth in the King George, before unseating Gavin Sheehan in the rearranged Cotswold Chase at Sandown.

Bennys King, Dashel Drasher, Fanion D’Estruval, Kalashnikov and Terrefort complete the list.

Cyrname tops 10 in contention for Ascot Chase honours

Cyrname is one of 10 contenders for Saturday’s Betfair Ascot Chase.

The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old needs to bounce back to form having failed to finish in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Prior to that, he had looked as good as ever when winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and he did claim the Ascot Chase in 2019.

Nicholls could also run Master Tommytucker, who has won three times already this season.

On the ratings, Cyrname’s main opponent is the Colin Tizzard-trained Lostintranslation, who is dropping down in trip.

Winner of last season’s Betfair Chase, he was only narrowly beaten in the Gold Cup in March, but was a distant third in the Betfair Chase in November and once again failed to run his race in the King George.

Last year’s Ascot Chase hero Riders Onthe Storm is back again for Nigel Twiston-Davies, but he has yet to return to that sort of form in two outings this term.

Saint Calvados, a narrow second in last term’s Ryanair Chase and fourth in the King George, could try to make amends after unseating Gavin Sheehan in the rearranged Cotswold Chase at Sandown.

Bennys King, Dashel Drasher, Fanion D’Estruval, Kalashnikov and Terrefort complete the list.

Ascot Chase option for Dashel Drasher

Jeremy Scott is thinking of giving Dashel Drasher an entry in the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase following his game success over the course and distance on Saturday.

The eight-year-old has earned his chance in open company after making virtually all the running to see off Bennys King by a length and a quarter in the bet365 Handicap Chase.

It was his second successive victory over two miles and five furlongs at the Berkshire track and the way Dashel Drasher stuck to his task surprised even his trainer.

“I was really impressed with him. It’s interesting where we go now. He certainly looked more resilient than I possibly gave him credit for,” said Scott.

“He might go back there for the Ascot Chase in a month’s time. That’s a possibility.

“It’s over the same trip. It depends what is kicking around at the time. If he’s all right, he’ll probably have an entry. We’ll see what the opposition is and take it from there.

“He’s got the entry in the Ryanair, which is also a possibility.

“It would be nice to see him step up into graded company.”

Scott would love to see Dashel Drasher move up in class as the Somerset trainer still has his dam, So Long.

“It would also be nice to get some black type for the mare because we’ve still got her,” he said.

“We’ve never quite managed to get any black type, so it would be nice to achieve that.

“The options are open. We’ll see how he comes out of the race – that’s the main thing.”