The Grade 1 Clarence House Chase is the feature race at Ascot today and sees the rematch between the Willie Mullins-trained 12-year-old Un De Sceaux and the Philip Hobbs-trained Defi Du Seuil (3.35) who is five-years his junior.
Un De Sceaux has won this corresponding race three times in the last four years but was beaten 4L 12 months ago when no match for the brilliant Altior. The Hobbs horse had just a neck to spare over the Irish raider in the Tingle Creek at Sandown last month and you could argue this is a home game for the Mullins’ veteran given his track record as Defi Du Seuil disappointed on his sole previous start at the track.
Defi Du Seuil heads the market at 4/5 (from 8/11) with BetVictor as the money has come for Un De Sceaux (11/8 from 13/8) who has a near impeccable record when the word heavy is in the going description. That said I can’t desert the British runner and I hope to see Barry Geraghty swoop fast and late on the younger horse. The Tingle Creek was one of the races of the season and round two should be just as good.
In the amateur riders’ event I thought Nearly Perfect (1.15) jumped very well when making all at Wincanton in a decent 3m Chase earlier in the month and a 5lbs rise looks fair. This six-year-old steps up in class this afternoon, but he has only had two career starts over the larger obstacles. He finished runner up in his sole Irish point, but that was behind the brilliant Irish novice hurdler and last year’s Festival Bumper winner Envoi Allen!
Pic D’Orhy (2.25) was the antepost favourite for the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton last weekend but was a late withdrawal. He is allowed to take his chance in the near two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle, and he gets the vote for Paul Nicholls.
The selection has only had one start in Britain when beaten more than 20L in the Triumph Hurdle, but he had useful form in his native France, and he was the subject of very positive noises coming out of the yard for much of last term. He doesn’t look exactly chucked in from a mark of 146 but he gets the vote – 11/4 with BetVictor – given Bold Plan has been raised 10lbs for scoring at Haydock Park last time.
Such was the ease with which Le Ligerien (12.55) won at Newbury on Wednesday that it is impossible to oppose him despite a 7lbs penalty. He will be raised much more than that on Tuesday and he seemed to enjoy himself out in front at the Berkshire track. The talented conditional Ben Jones keeps the ride and, if those exertions have not taken their toll, he can make all in the Haydock Park opener.
The Grade 2 Novices’ Chase may only have four runners, but it is a belter. Joke Dancer won despite jumping out to his right at Warwick last week and he and looks sure to appreciate today’s additional half-mile given how strongly he finished his race last time out. Knight In Dubai is a progressive young chaser going places but Windsor Avenue (1.30) just didn’t pick up a leg at Doncaster last time and I hope he can get his season back on track for Brian Ellison. He had looked very smart previously over the larger obstacles.
Only four go to post in the trial for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle but it is a fascinating race with Alan King’s Edwardstone fitted with a first-time hood as he tries to peg back Jamie Snowden’s Thebannerkingrebel (2.05). I just favour the latter who made most when winning by 5L over C&D here eight weeks ago and I think this deep ground will suit the selection more than Edwardstone in his first-time head-gear.
In the feature Peter Marsh Chase, I hope to see the progressive Geronimo (2.40) give former Grand National winning jockey Ryan Mania a big winner as he continues his comeback having retired from the saddle in November 2014 citing problems with his weight. He returned in October and has been in good form since winning on six of his 22 rides over fences and he did us a big favour on Aloomomo at Kelso on Sunday. The each way selection is 13/2 at BetVictor and I was impressed with his reappearance success at Newcastle over what looked an inadequate test of stamina.
Fighting Fifth winner Cornerstone Lad must give 3lbs to Pentland Hills (3.15) but I hope to see the latter build on his Cheltenham comeback when he travelled like the best horse in the race but didn’t get home having refused to settle. The selection has the lowest official rating in the four-runner field, but he is only five and I hope he can enhance his Champion Hurdle credentials. The selection – who won the Triumph Hurdle last season – is 5/4 with BetVictor.
Yala Enki (2.50) was last seen finishing third in the Welsh National but connections look to have found an excellent opportunity in Taunton’s £50,000 Chase. The 10-year-old has moved to the Paul Nicholls yard this season and would be giving weight away all-round if this were a handicap.
Loveherandleaveher (3.55) jumped well on her chase debut but palpably failed to stay three miles and no surprise to see her drop back in trip for Nicky Henderson. The selection will be seen in an even better light when she gets some decent ground, but I do believe she is well treated at present.
On Sunday I am looking forward to seeing the mare Footpad (2.45) drop back in trip having looked a non-stayer when third at Kempton in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day. Willie Mullins saddles three of the five runners at Thurles in the Grade 2 contest but I will be disappointed if the mare doesn’t oblige.
I see no reason to desert Aloomomo (3.00) at Ayr despite a 7lbs rise for his Kelso win last Sunday. The selection will relish underfoot conditions and will certainly be put up more than half a stone when the handicapper has his say midweek.
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