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Blast From The Past: Ascot Chase

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We take a look back at the 1998 Ascot Chase, which featured a victory for arguably the most popular British-trained steeplechaser since Desert Orchid...

The Ascot Chase used to be run on a Wednesday at the racecourse of the same name, but became the feature race on a high-class Saturday card in 1999, and that move also coincided with a change in name for the Grade 1 which has been won by equine heroes such as Monet's Garden (2007 and 2010), Kauto Star (2008) and Cue Card (2013) in recent years.

Cue Card produced a top-class performance when winning what used to known as the Comet Chase four years ago, and he went on to land the Ryanair Chase on his next start at the Cheltenham Festival. He has since been successful on five further occasions at the highest level and will be back to try and register the ninth Grade 1 victory of his career this weekend. 

The 11-year-old appears to face a relatively straightforward task against five inferior rivals and, while below-par when second on his most recent outing in the King George at Kempton, the form he showed when winning the Betfair Chase in November would have been good enough to win many a renewal of this race.

One exception to that rule would have been the 1998 renewal won by One Man, who took the last edition of this prize to be staged in midweek and under the guise of the Comet Chase, and who produced the best performance from an Comet/Ascot Chase winner in doing so.

One Man had been beaten in the same race 12 months earlier, not looking his usual bouncing self and simply keeping on at the one pace to finish a clear second best behind Strong Promise. That effort preceded a tired sixth in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, but he had appeared as good as ever when winning his first two starts of the 1997/98 campaign, namely the Charlie Hall Chase and the Peterborough Chase. 

The Comet Chase would again be One Man's stepping stone to Cheltenham and he gained revenge on Strong Promise in impressive fashion. Back over a shorter trip and in less testing conditions than when only fifth in the King George at Kempton - a race he had won in each of the two previous seasons - One Man was sent off the 7/4 second-favourite behind Strong Promise, with the only other runner Senor El Betrutti going off at 10/3.

Strong Promise did not look fully wound up for his seasonal debut and Senor El Betrutti did not take the eye, but there was nothing to fault in One Man. Tony Dobbin's took over at the head of affairs from the fifth and held a definitive advantage as the field approached the third-last. One Man looked likely to win well when making a mistake at the next, but still found plenty to maintain a five-length advantage over Strong Promise and teed himself up for another trip to Cheltenham in style. 

The home of National Hunt racing had never looked a hospitable place for One Man or his supporters, and it had been difficult to watch him him scrambling over the last and then trying to raise a gallop up the hill in two successive Cheltenham Gold Cups. The Queen Mother Champion Chase was to be his target this time round, though, despite concerns doubts about his effectiveness at two miles.

One Man's victory in the Champion Chase would be one of the major highlights of a vintage Festival. Even up against a Hennessy and two King Georges, that display had to be the most exhilarating - and, for his connections, satisfying - triumph of his career, but 16 days later that career came to an end when the horse who had enjoyed as much popularity as any British-trained steeplechaser since Desert Orchid lost his life in a fall at Aintree.

One Man won twenty of his thirty-five starts and over £450,000 in prize money, and was Timeform's top-rated steeplechaser in both 1995/6 and 1997/8.

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