Saturday 23rd January 2016, 3pm - Clarence House Chase (Ascot)
This weekend is shaping up to be a thrilling few days of jump racing with top class races to look forward to on both sides of the Irish Sea. There is no doubt though that the feature race in the UK on Saturday is at Ascot as they host the Clarence House Chase which is without doubt one of the very best 2m Chases of the entire season.
The recent roll of honour for this race is a stunning one with Well Chief, Master Minded, Sprinter Sacre, Sire De Grugy and Dodging Bullets just some of the names to have won this one. In fact, the last three winners of the Clarence House Chase have gone onto win the Queen Mother Champion Chase in their next start and that alone is enough to ensure this race is a must watch contest.
All Eyes On Un De Sceaux
We have a very hot favourite this season in the form of the sometimes brilliant Un De Sceaux who is making the trip over from Ireland for Willie Mullins. An enthusiastic front runner, Un De Sceaux is simply sensational on his best day and goes into this race as the current Arkle hero and the very warm favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March.
There is a chink in the armour of Un De Sceaux though and that is his jumping with his enthusiasm sometimes his weakness as well as his strength. That was the case on his seasonal debut last month when he fell at Leopardstown when he had the race at his mercy and his fans will be eager to see him get round safely at Ascot.
When he gets round, he wins, but backing Un De Sceaux this weekend at 8/13 with Betfred.com does come with a risk given his recent mistakes.
It should also be noted that Un De Sceaux will perhaps be facing the biggest test of his career in terms of opposition this weekend as he faces a rejuvenated Sire De Grugy (5/2) at Ascot. A former winner of this race and the Champion Chase, the Gary Moore trained horse won the Tingle Creek back in December before pushing Sprinter Sacre all the way at Kempton over Christmas to highlight his form.
Sire De Grugy is perhaps not back to his very best of 2013/14 but he is certainly in good form right now and he will be on hand to push Un De Sceaux all the way should the Willie Mullins horse not be at his very best on Saturday.
We should also mention Vibrato Valtat (11/1) who is no mug himself for Paul Nicholls and could be one to pick up the pieces if the front two don't perform. The grey won the Haldon Gold Cup earlier in the season and although his future might lie over further than two miles, he is a more than decent sort who will be plugging on at the end, regardless of how he performs.
This race will certainly tell us plenty more about Un De Sceaux as a horse as he takes on a top notch rival after falling on his seasonal debut last time out. Sire De Grugy will run his race that's for sure and it will be fascainting to see how closely he can follow Un De Sceaux who is sure to set a blistering pace at the Berkshire track.