Paul Nicholls: ‘Ptit Zig ready to step out of novice company’ for Betfair Ascot Chase

Sam Twiston-Davies and winning connections with Ptit Zig at Ascot.

Sam Twiston-Davies and winning connections with Ptit Zig at Ascot in December.

By Simon Jackson.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Ptit Zig bids to extend his unbeaten record this season when he contests the Grade 1 £150,000 Betfair Ascot Chase on Saturday.

The six-year-old novice chaser has won all of his four starts this campaign. He won a beginners’ chase at Exeter on his comeback in November, before landing a novices’ chase at Warwick a week later.

He easily coped with the step up to Grade 2 when scoring by nine lengths at Ascot in December and followed up with a six length victory in the Grade 2 BetBright Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

Nicholls believes that his charge, who is a leading contender for the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, is now well-equipped for his first race away from novice chases.

“I feel Ptit Zig is ready to step out of novice company,” Nicholls said. “He is in great form and I am looking forward to running him at Ascot on Saturday. We will make a final decision just before the declaration stage on Thursday.
“He schooled well with Sam [Twiston-Davies] on Monday morning and his Cheltenham target next month is the JLT Novices’ Chase.”

Ptit Zig is best-priced at 4-1 behind favourite Vautour (3-1) for the JLT Novices’ Hurdle on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival on March 12.

In other news, Ascot is offering free Grandstand admission to racegoers on Saturday as they celebrate 50 years of jump racing at the Royal course.

Ascot has hosted racing for over 300 years, but they only introduced jump racing in 1965 following the closure of Hurst Park.

Ascot clerk of the course, Chris Stickels, said “We are celebrating 50 years of jump racing on Saturday and there is an added attraction for racegoers who will be able to see 19-time champion jockey A P McCoy, who has just announced his retirement at the end of the season, in action.

“We are looking forward to welcoming a good crowd to Ascot on Saturday.”

Read ‘Horse Talk with Simon Jackson’ at London24 for the latest horse racing news.