Dodging Bullets in the Newbury parade ring
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Newbury Racecourse

Paul Nicholls is considering stepping Dodging Bullets up to the top table for the first time this season in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot on January 21.

The Ditcheat handler has given the former champion chaser an entry in the Grade One prize, which he won in 2015, as the nine-year-old bids for a first victory of the campaign.

Dodging Bullets failed to build upon an encouraging return in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter when he was pulled up in a Grade Two at Ascot in November.

But he shaped with more promise on his most recent start, when fourth in last month’s Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.

Nicholls said: “Dodging Bullets has been given an entry in the Clarence House where he might go, but it is not definite.

“He is one of those horses in no-man’s land at the moment.

“I don’t know what to make of the Peterborough Chase. You could make the argument that he didn’t stay, but I’m not convinced about that.

“He ran a better race there than at Ascot, though.

“He just doesn’t appear to quite as good as he was, but he is well and in good form.

“He will run as soon as he is ready to run.”

Altior and Un De Sceaux also feature amongst just nine entries for the two-mile-one-furlong test.

The former, last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero, is unbeaten in three starts since having his attentions turned to fences this season.

Nicky Henderson’s charge claimed Grade One honours in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown and subsequently landed the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton in effortless fashion over the festive period.

The Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux was an impressive winner of this event 12 months ago and made a successful start to the current campaign in the Tingle Creek at Sandown.

He is one of two potential challengers from Ireland along with Henry de Bromhead’s recent Desert Orchid Chase winner Special Tiara.

Gary Moore could saddle both 2014 winner Sire De Grugy and Tingle Creek fourth Ar Mad, who can be expected to improve considerably on what was his first run since last February.

Jonjo O’Neill’s Eastlake, the Philip Hobbs-trained Royal Regatta and Top Gamble, from the Kerry Lee yard, complete the field.