Un De Sceaux bids to create history on Saturday by becoming the first horse to win the Grade One Royal Salute Whisky Clarence House Chase on three occasions.
The ten-year-old has won nineteen out of twenty-five races and has simply been a marvellous servant to the brilliant trainer Willie Mullins.
Tim Peters, horse racing expert, takes us through this weekend’s bout of races…
The Irish challenger returned this season by dismantling a decent field in the Grade Two Hilly Way Chase at Cork and had Top Gamble some twenty-five lengths behind in second place. The latter re-opposes here but did at least manage to get within eight lengths of Un De Sceaux in this corresponding race twelve months ago. The likelihood of reversing the places at Ascot do seem very unlikely though.
Un De Sceaux is a very exciting horse as his win in the 2017 Cheltenham Festival Ryanair Chase (2 miles 5 furlongs) demonstrated.
He was simply electrifying that day and jumped like a buck.
I have always felt that a stiff two miles suits the Clarence House favourite perfectly though, and it will take a very special performance to stop him from winning this race again.
That being said, there has been significant support for the talented Brain Power.
Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old has only ever run twice over the larger obstacles but did impress when winning on his chasing debut at Kempton in late November. He then stepped up in class in Sandown’s Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase where he ran well before eventually unseating his rider (looked held at the time) two fences from the finish.
As a hurdler Brain Power won a hot handicap hurdle at Ascot, before running down the field in the Champion Hurdle last March. He has always been held in high regard by the Seven Barrows team, but his lack of experience does concern me.
Kylemore Lough was extremely well backed (went off favourite) in Cheltenham’s big November Handicap Chase. He travelled very strongly in the contest before fading up the hill, giving the impression that he was either too fresh on the day or simply didn’t stay.
The nine-year-old has been tried over a variety of different trips, including three miles, which in my opinion he definitely failed to see out. It’s really interesting to see trainer Harry Fry now drop him back to two miles and a furlong at Ascot which could well suit him. The softer the ground the better his chances, but it appears that conditions are drying and that would be a negative for me.
Paul Nicholls has two runners entered up in Cyrname and San Benedeto.
The former impressed last time when dominating against some talented opposition in the Grade Two Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton. He will be facing plenty of competition for the lead this time around though, which does scupper my enthusiasm over his chances.
San Benedeto is a Grade One winner over fences but has not won in his last five outings. He did contest the Tingle Creek in December, but was outclassed by stable companion Politologue and trailed in fifth. He might prefer better ground too, as his best form is often saved for the spring.
God’s Own is a very talented chaser, but his record of just four wins in twenty-three over fences is somewhat surprising, given the high esteem he is held in by trainer Tom George.
He ran only last week behind the highly progressive Waiting Patiently, but maybe dropping back down in distance will suit him much better, as will the drying conditions.
He is a multiple Grade One winner over fences and did give Un De Sceaux a big fright in the Arkle at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival. He is a sound horse who takes his racing very well and appeals as an each-way proposition in this contest.
Nigel Hawke has been absolutely thrilled with the progress of Speredek.
This is a horse who has improved 30lbs over fences since February and has won five of his last six races.
— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) January 18, 2018
And whilst he has much to find with the big players, the likely small field aligned with considerable prize money down to sixth place, is tempting the West Country handler to run his charge.
In conclusion, whilst no ten-year-old has won the Clarence House since the great Desert Orchid in 1989, it will be a surprise if Un De Sceaux doesn’t complete the hat-trick and win again.
His odds are starting to become tempting due to the sustained support for Brain Power, who is evidently a chaser on the rise, but would need to put in a foot-perfect performance to cause an upset here.
And whilst a lot more exposed than most, God’s Own will definitely be suited by dropping down in trip. With a likely fast pace to be aimed at he could pick up the pieces late on.
All the prices can be found on Grosvenor Sport:
Un De Sceaux to win the Clarence House – 8/15.
God’s Own each-way in the Clarence House – TBA.