Bryony Frost is confident the burden of top-weight will not prevent Black Corton from running his usual solid race in the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot on Saturday.
Frost was still a 5lb claimer when first steering the Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old to victory in a Worcester novice chase during the summer of 2017.
Wind the clock forward two and a half years and the combination have now landed eight races over fences together – a tally that includes a Grade One victory in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton and a Grade Two success on the final day of last season at Sandown.
Black Corton was last seen running an excellent race in defeat when filling the runner-up spot in the Galway Plate at the end of July, and connections have elected to run at Ascot rather than in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Frost said: “It has been up in the air which race he was going to run in, as it was all dependent on the ground. He is only a little guy and he needs the best ground. Wetherby has had a bit of rain and we thought we would be more likely to get the ground he wants at Ascot.
“He knows Ascot well and likes the track as he has won around there before. He has had a nice freshen up since Galway and looks fantastic. He schooled earlier this week and he was brilliant, as he always is with his schooling.
“I think his Galway run was probably one of his best ever races. He is just so tough and genuine and doesn’t know how to run a bad race.
“He does have a lot of weight, but he is in top form at home so we are taking our chance.
“He is just one of those characters everyone loves to be around.”
Black Corton must concede upwards of 7lb to each of his 17 rivals in the Grade Three handicap.
Next in the weights is the Tom George-trained Double Shuffle, who came close to causing an almighty shock in the King George VI Chase at Kempton a couple of seasons ago, but has not managed to get his head in front since December 2016.
“He is in good form and we are happy with him,” said George.
“We all know Double Shuffle in that he is good round Kempton when the ground is good. Although he does have a big weight at Ascot, it is more like Kempton than Wetherby is.
“He only actually has two chase wins to his name and it would be nice to win another, given the big races he has run in defeat.”
Relentless Dreamer has crept in at the very foot of the weights for Welsh trainer Rebecca Curtis.
The 10-year-old also has the benefit of a recent outing, having finished third behind Ballyoptic and Lil Rockerfeller at Chepstow three weeks ago on what was his first competitive appearance in 12 months.
Curtis said: “It was a huge performance at Chepstow after all that time off, I was really happy with him.
“Usually he improves for a run anyway, so after so long off I couldn’t have wished for much more really.
“This looks a nice race for him and it is worth a lot of money.”
The Kim Bailey-trained Vinndication heads the betting following the declaration stage, with Colin Tizzard’s Mister Malarky and Gary Moore’s Larry also prominent in the market.