THE MATCHBOOK Clarence House Chase at Ascot brings rising star DEFI DU SEUIL and the veteran UN DE SCEAUX together again this weekend in what is set to be a mouth-watering clash.
This effectively became a new race when upgraded to a Grade 1 contest in 2008 and three successive winners from 2013 to 2015 went on to win the Champion Chase. Few would dispute the fact that UN DE SCEAUX, winner of the following three editions, also belongs with the greats, but can the old warrior take his fourth Clarence House?
Patrick Mullins thinks the horse has improved from his second-placed effort to Saturday’s (tomorrow) rival in the Tingle Creek at Sandown last month.
He said he felt that his father Willie’s horses have been improving for their first run of the season this time round and that this legendary 12-year-old should strip fitter for his Sandown outing. He went on to say that the same could not be said for DEFI as he was already having his second outing of this campaign.
UN DE SCEAUX retains all of his enthusiasm for the game despite his advancing years. He loves it round Ascot and the heavy rain dumped by Storm Brendan also works in his favour as he relishes testing conditions.
Yorkshire raider WHOSHOTTHESHERRIFF has not won since moving into handicap company but can land Ascot’s valuable handicap hurdle at 2.25. Philip Kirby’s six-year-old gelding is back over a more comfortable distance and will be 7lbs better off since finishing fifth here last time out despite racing wide all the way round.
In what looks such an open year for the Unibet Champion Hurdle, can this weekend’s Haydock trial throw up a contender?
The most likely Festival winner could be the Nicky Henderson-trained PENTLAND HILLS, who is incredibly slick over his hurdles, a quality needed to reach the top in this division, and he deserves to be 6/4 favourite for tomorrow’s (Saturday) race.
But there has to be a question mark over the ground which is likely to be heavy given the weather this past week and that could play right into the hands of CORNERSTONE LAD.
Micky Hammond’s six-year-old has to shoulder a penalty for winning the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, where he beat Buveur D’Air, and his price of 5/1 with Carrigill’s appeals more given the conditions.
The big betting race of the day at Haydock is the Peter Marsh Chase and it will be interesting to see who turns up as there are plenty of horses who don’t act at the track when the going gets bad.
GERONIMO has improved over the last year and could still be ahead of the handicapper but CALLIPSO COLLONGES will relish the slog over more than three miles. He has had five wins and a second from 10 starts on soft or heavy ground and looks well treated off a mark of 127.
TORO DORADO was Ed Dunlop’s first winner of 2020 over 1m at Lingfield and can follow up over the same course and distance tomorrow (Saturday) at 1.35. He’s only gone up 1lb from that win where Luke Morris came from off the pace to get up a win by a neck from Holiday Magic.
Staying on the all-weather, a drop down to a class 4 looks to be right up the street of ULTIMATE AVENUE who can score for local connections in Chelmsford’s 1m handicap at 7.15 tomorrow (Saturday).
Carrigill’s nap: (money back as a free bet if finishes outside top four. Write Augur on your slip to qualify):
HAPPY DIVA, Ascot, Saturday, 3.00.
Augur’s best bet:
ULTIMATE AVENUE (e/w), Chelmsford, Saturday, 7.15.