DEFENDING champion Cyrname headlines eight excellent entries for the £150,000 Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase, staged over two miles and five furlongs later this month.

Cyrname is one of two entries along with Frodon for 11-times champion Jump trainer Paul Nicholls.

The Ditcheat handler is the joint winning-most trainer in the race's history with four successes – Rockforce (2000), Kauto Star (2008), Silviniaco Conti (2016) and Cyrname (2019).

Cyrname was a devastating 17-length winner of last year's renewal, defeating 2018 winner Waiting Patiently.

He returned to action this season with a defeat of Altior in the Grade Two Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot, his third straight success at the track, on November 23.

The eight-year-old son of Nickname subsequently finished second to stable companion Clan Des Obeaux in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day on his first attempt at three miles.

Cyrname is looking to become the first horse since Riverside Theatre (2011 & 2012) to win successive runnings of the Betfair Ascot Chase on Saturday, February 15, and the fifth dual winner in the contest's history.

With an official BHA rating of 177, Cyrname is the highest-rated Jump horse in training, 2lb clear of Altior.

Nicholls' other representative, the ultra-consistent Frodon, returned to the winners' enclosure in the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton earlier this month.

The eight-year-old enjoyed a tremendous time of things last season, winning four of his five starts, which culminated with a fine success in the Grade One Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Gloucestershire trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has yet to win the Betfair Ascot Chase, but has a live contender in the shape of Riders Onthe Storm. Formerly trained in Ireland by Tom Taaffe, the son of Scorpion was purchased for £50,000 in May and is unbeaten in two starts for his new connections.

The seven-year-old backed up an impressive British debut at Aintree in November with a convincing seven-length success in the Betfair Exchange Graduation Chase over the course and distance at Ascot on December 21.

Naunton-based Twiston-Davies said: "Riders Onthe Storm is on target to run. He has come out of Ascot very well and was impressive there last time.

"He likes the track and the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival is the long-term aim."

Five-time champion jump trainer Nicky Henderson has enjoyed three successes in the Betfair Ascot Chase courtesy of Riverside Theatre in 2011 and 2012 along with Tiutchev in 2001.

The Seven Barrows maestro has two entries in 2020 – three-time Ascot winner and this season's Peterborough Chase scorer Top Notch, plus Haldon Gold Cup victor Janika, both of whom are owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

Other notable entries include Saint Calvados (Harry Whittington), a game winner of a handicap chase at Cheltenham in October and who contested the 2019 Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, along with the Gary Moore-trained Traffic Fluide, who finished fifth behind Waiting Patiently in the 2018 running of the Betfair Ascot Chase.

The 10-year-old has been off the track through injury since landing the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot in November, 2018 and has the Randox Health Grand National as an aim this season.

The nine entries are completed by 13-year-old veteran Valdez, a Grade Two winner in his prime for Barbury Castle trainer Alan King.