WYE Valley trainer Venetia Williams’ stable star L’Homme Presse is set to up the ante in its Gold Cup preparations by racing the £175,000 Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase this Saturday.

The nine-year-old made an impressive return from 13 months out of action by winning the 2m 6f Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield last month. And his King’s Caple trainer said of Ascot at the weekend: “That’s the plan. He was very good at Lingfield and I’ve been very happy with him since.”

L’Homme Presse landed the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown and Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in the 2021-22 season, followed by the Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle on his reappearance at top weight last season.

But he then unseated Charlie Deutsch at the final fence while running second in the King George VI Chase at Kempton and missed the rest of last season. Now back in harness, it will be L’Homme Presse’s shortest trip since the Scilly Isles, but Venetia is happy with it as prep for the 3m 2½f Gold Cup.

The horse has been tipped at 8-1 for March’s Festival showpiece since his winning return, and Williams said: “It’s a race that we took in with Teeton Mill a number of years ago after he’d been running over three miles.

“It’s something to look forward to.”

L’Homme Presse is the pick of a five-runner field for the Ascot Chase, with Pic D’orhy and Ahoy Senor lined up as potential opponents.

Owner Andy Edwards told Sky Sports: “Everything has been fine with L’Homme Presse since Lingfield.

“I thought it was an amazing comeback and we were thrilled with everything we saw from him. Hopefully, he can kick on again from there, starting this weekend in the Betfair Ascot Chase.

“I don’t think the ‘bounce factor’ is a scientific thing. Every horse is different and that’s not something that fazes us. We’re only concerned about our horse and he’ll run a race that suits him.

“The [Gold Cup] dream is still alive. To even be in the reckoning for a race of that calibre is a privilege in itself. We want to do our very best to win at Ascot this weekend and then, all being well, take our chance at Cheltenham.

“It is a horse race and no horse is unbeatable, especially in a top-end race like the Gold Cup because there are so many variables that can affect the outcome.

“Having said that, Galopin Des Champs (2023 winner) is a champion and looks something to be admired.

“And you can’t discount the other horses in the race, as everyone will go there thinking they have a valid chance. As I always like to say, keep the faith, believe in your horse and enjoy the moment.”

Venetia’s Gold Cup veteran Royale Pagaille – winner of Haydock’s Betfair Chase in November – remains a doubt for the festival after falling at the last in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham two weeks ago.

The horse, which has placed sixth, fifth and sixth in the last three Gold Cup runnings, was described as ‘very sore’ following the fall.

But the trainer was celebrating an amzing return to action for French recruit Demnat after a 961-day absence.

The seven-year-old hadn’t raced since finishing second at Compiegne in June 2021, but won the 2m 4f handicap chase by 15L under jockey Deutsch at Ludlow last Wednesday (February 7).

Venetia told the Racing Post of the 15-2 shot: “He was so laid back in the paddock that he had his head on the ground and he went to post like he was going on a picnic. He latched on at the start, however, and that was very pleasing.

The Ascot Chase is live on Sky Sports Racing at 3.35pm.