2020 Clarence House Chase preview – Mullins’ star can down rivals to land fourth Ascot crown
Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner look at Saturday's Grade One feature race at Ascot, the Clarence House Chase.
The feature race of Saturday’s horse racing action at Ascot is the Grade One Clarence House Chase, and another cracking renewal of this 2m1f contest awaits punters despite its’ small field of runners.
Only five participants will face the starter’s tape in the Saturday highlight, each with eyes on a £85,425 first prize, with the field headed up by triple-race winner Un De Sceaux who will be bidding to land a fourth win having won the race in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Other notable names to have taken this prize include Altior twelve months ago, while former Queen Mother Champion Chase winners Sire De Grugy, Dodging Bullets, Sprinter Sacre and Master Minded have also plundered this prize so the contest.
Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner look at the big race field for Saturday’s Grade One feature at Ascot.
Philip Hobbs’ Defi Du Seuil (Evens, Coral) hasn’t looked back over fences following his inauspicious debut over the larger obstacles at Cheltenham in the 2018 November Novices’ Chase, and the Voix Du Nord gelding went on to enjoy an excellent novice campaign where he won three of his five subsequent starts which included twice beating Lostintranslation in Grade One company with the latter coming in the JLT Novices’ Chase.
He rounded off his campaign with a solid runner-up effort behind Chacun Pour Soi when contesting the Ryanair Novice Chase at the Punchestown Festival last May, and following a break he has returned to post consecutive wins at Cheltenham and Sandown respectively.
The latter of those wins came in the Tingle Creek Chase where he held off a strong challenge by Un De Sceaux, and the pair lock horns again. There is a lot to like about his claims of a third straight win of the season as well as registering a second successive win over Willie Mullins’ stalwart, and he could prove a tough nut to crack.
However, UN DE SCEAUX (2/1, Ladbrokes) is taken to turn the tables on Philip Hobbs’ charge despite the latter being a much younger horse, and the Irish raider could come out on top this time.
The Denham Red veteran shows no sign of his powers waning despite his advancing years, and he retains a strike-rate over fences in excess of 50% despite being a twelve-year old now.
His latest win saw him roll back the years to demolish Min by four lengths in the Boylesports Champion Chase during the Punchestown Festival back in April last year, and he was making his reappearance when denied only by a neck by Defi Du Seuil at Sandown in the Tingle Creek Chase.
Philip Hobbs’ rival had the benefit of a previous run under his belt, but despite that advantage the County Carlow stalwart dug deep and was closing again at the finish having looked beaten jumping the last fence and he’ll strip a lot fitter now for this rematch.
Willie Mullins’ star boasts an excellent record when the mud is flying, and the ground can’t be too soft for him; and with the advance weather forecast showing plenty of rain in the lead up to Saturday then conditions will certainly suit the Denham Red gelding.
While Defi Du Seuil also enjoys getting his toe in, the Irish raider’s record in the mud allied with his course-winning form tips the scales in his favour should the rain arrive in sufficient quantity.
Nicky Henderson saddles Janika (14/1, Coral) in opposition, but the Saddler Maker gelding has a bit to find with both Defi Du Seuil and Un De Sceaux when finishing fourth behind that pair in the Tingle Creek Chase back in December.
A multiple-winner over fences in France for Guy Cherel prior to joining this yard, he had four runs last term without managing to get his head in front, although he did back a trio of runner-up efforts which twice saw him finish behind Siruh Du Lac including in the Brown Advisory Plate, and he lost little caste in defeat over the Grand National Fences when finishing fourth behind Cadmium in the Topham Chase.
He got off the mark in good style with a defeat of Dolos on his reappearance in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter prior to his Tingle Creek run; but he was a shade disappointing over hurdles behind Summerville Boy in the Relkeel Hurdle and might appreciate a return to chasing.
Given his Sandown effort however, he is likely to play second fiddle again to to the principal pair and he’ll need to find a fair jolt of improvement if he’s to reverse Tingle Creek form here.
Paul Nicholls meanwhile sends out his Capeland (20/1, Bet365) who has proven himself to be a solid handicapper, but the Poliglote gelding looks up against it at this level where he could struggle to get competitive.
He likely would have won here on his reappearance in a Listed contest when bumped out by Diego Du Charmil on the run to the last when that one tried to run out, leaving his jockey no chance to recover and get him back on track.
Subsequently disqualified from that contest for taking a wrong course through no fault of his own, he gained revenge when routing the same rival back at this venue in November where he ran out an easy twelve lengths’ winner.
He was however put in his place behind Bun Doran when contesting the Desert Orchid Chase over the Christmas period where he could only finish a poor fourth behind Tom George’s charge. On that form he has plenty to find, while he has a full 13lbs to make up on official ratings with top-rated Defi Du Seuil so a significant career-best is called for here.
Marracudja (66/1, William Hill) got back to winning ways at Wetherby over Christmas with a defeat of Hawk High, but he had been soundly beaten behind Capeland the time before and Dan Skelton’s charge looks out of his depth at this level.
The Martaline gelding has certainly paid his way through his career, winning six times in all over hurdles and fences as well as making the frame on several occasions. However, while a fairly solid handicapper, his last run in Graded company came in last season’s Grand Annual where he finished eighth behind Croco Bay and that standard falls well below what is required here.
On official ratings he has 11lbs to find with Capeland, while he’s rated fully two stone behind Defi Du Seuil and the nine-year old is hard to make a case for. He should give connections a good day out however, but he’s likely to find this far too tough.
Defi Du Seuil is likely to prove tough to beat with a replication of his recent Tingle Creek success over UN DE SCEAUX (2/1, Ladbrokes), but Willie Mullin’s veteran is taken to turn to tables here.
The triple-Clarence House Chase winner was conceding race-fitness to Philip Hobbs’ rival, and although he looked beaten jumping the last he rallied strongly on the run to the line to only go down by a neck.
He’s sure to strip fitter with that outing under his belt which could help him close the gap, while his record around here and on testing ground is formidable. With rain forecast for the week, the underfoot conditions should very much come in his favour and despite his advancing years the twelve-year old can land a fourth Clarence House Chase success.