WYE Valley Gold Cup hope L’Homme Presse started Saturday’s £175,000 Asoct Chase as 5/4 favourite, but had to give second best to Pic D’Orhy by 5 1/2L.

King’s Caple-based trainer Venetia Williams’ horse won first time out in 13 months last month in the Fleur de Lys Chase at Lingfield, but couldn’t match Harry Cobden’s mount in Saturday’s Grade 1 feature race.

But his team are still feeling positive about the nine-year-old ahead of March’s festival, with owner Andy Edwards finding plenty of positives in his performance after missing out on Cheltenham in 2023 and virtually all of last season through injury.

Edwards told Sky Sports after the race: “He’s got the same chance that he had yesterday as he has now, he’s the horse that he is.

“It was a bit short for him that race, the ground has dried out, but no excuses, the winner has won well and we’re very happy.

“He’s ran through the line and was doing his best work at the end. The extra five furlongs [in the Cheltenham Gold Cup] is his ideal trip and it was always going to be tough when there was no rain last night.”

His team had considered pulling the horse out and heading straight for Cheltenham owing to the drying ground, but decided to give him the extra race beforehand despite the conditions not being to his liking.

“We did half-think about pulling him out, but he needed the run before the Gold Cup, so we have to be happy.

“He needed the run to sharpen him up and things today were in Pic D’Orhy’s favour.

“If there were any nerves it was that something could go wrong today. That was great though, he has run through the line and if it was good to soft, soft in places it could have been a different result.”

“It’s a privilege to be in a Grade One and that’s what it is all about and we will enjoy the moment. We’re happy and we can go to Cheltenham smiling.

“We got away with it at Lingfield, we didn’t today, but at the end of the day we have come second in a Grade One at Ascot and I’m happy.”

The Paul Nicholls-trained winner had the favourite out of his comfort zone with some slick jumping to take an early 5L lead, while L’Homme Presse under Charlie Deutsch was always jumping to his left.

Going down the back straight L’Homme Presse, Ahoy Senor and the big outsider Sail Away began to close in, but rounding the home bend Cobden kicked Pic D’Orhy clear and the 13-8 chance put in a great leap at the last to seal a comfortable win.

The result saw L’Homme presse eased out to 12-1 for the Gold cup, and Deutsch admitted afterwards to the Racing Post: “He’s a three-miler and we bumped into a fast two-and-a-half-miler, who is very good on his day.

“He’s over the wrong trip and I almost looked at today as I’d try and win but if I don’t it doesn’t matter and hopefully it gets him ready for Cheltenham. I kind of knew my fate. He was trying, he was just flat out.”

Trainer Venetia Williams added: “Last week it looked like there was going to be loads of rain but that never materialised and running him over a trip too short on ground that’s half good is not playing to his strengths. Credit to the winner, today was his day.

“I’m delighted with him and it was a stepping stone. I’m very pleased.

“Charlie had to be after him a lot of the way as Harry Cobden went a good strong gallop, which was the right thing to do, and he was doing his best work at the finish,” she said.