Saturday’s Clarence House Chase Preview
Weighing up the chances of an upset in Ascot’s highlight
There’s little doubt about where the highlight of a busy Saturday of UK and Irish Horse Racing goes, with all eyes on the renewal of Ascot’s Clarence House Chase at 3.00pm.
A Grade One contest disputed over two-miles, as well as going as a fantastic spectacle for the day, it also shapes as an opportunity to get a squint at how things could be shaping up for the Cheltenham Festival later this year.
Un De Sceaux a worthy favourite
Un De Sceaux goes as the most-fancied runner of six, according to the current betting, and Willie Mullins’ charge travels to Berkshire as defending champion, having dismantled the field 12-months ago to lead Sire De Grugy, himself an impressive victor back in 2014, and the rest of the chasing-pack home by five-lengths.
Since recording that success, he went off as hot-favourite in last year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase at the festival, but wasn’t good enough on the day, trailing home behind Sprinter Sacre. The latter has retired, surely opening the door for another crack at the treble.
Un De Sceaux was last seen winning the Tingle Creek at Sandown, again putting Sire De Grugy in his place. It is little surprise to see the nine-year-old gelding at the head of the market again, and few, if any, punters could argue against that stance, especially with connections in a bullish mood this week.
Ar Mad for revenge
Main danger in the betting comes from current second-favourite Ar Mad, who goes for Team Moore. The talented seven-year-old, winner in half of his 10 career starts, continues down the road to recovery since being hampered by injury, and victory here would surely cap that.
He was back in business after a lengthy absence in the Tingle Creek in early December, but made little impression that day, finishing down in fourth-place. Excuses can be made for the bare result however and he was bowling along nicely in front before a piece of iffy jumping seemed to take him out of his stride, and after that, we can put a line through his finish.
Connections will take the positives from that race in that it was his first back and he took to the day like he had never been away. Trainer Gary Moore told racing enthusiasts with their ear to the ground that his representative has come on from that effort, but must show further improvement still if he is to overturn the favourite.
Dodging Bullets off target
Of those at a bigger price, Dodging Bullets may be given a chance by those who recall fondly him winning the Tingle Creek, Clarence House and Champion Chase a couple of years ago, and anything like his best would see him stand these on their head.
Unfortunately, we haven’t seen anything like his best for some time now and the fear is that the Nicholls star has had his time in the sun. He hasn’t won since that Cheltenham prize, when leaving behind Somersby in March 2015, ending no better than third in any of his last five attempts. An each-way play may work in your favour.