Maximum of Four to Line up for Clarence House at Ascot
The Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday could be a case of quality over quantity as just four runners were left in the race at the five day stage on Monday. We did have nine entries at the first stage but five of those runners have since pulled out leaving a maximum of four runners, but of course we could have less at the final declaration stage on Thursday morning.
The good news for racing fans is that the race could provide us with a fantastic clash, and all four rivals are top class. They are led by Altior, who needs no introduction and this has long since been the plan for him after coming out of his run over the Christmas period very well. This will more than likely be his last run before heading to the Cheltenham Festival, which is in two months time and trainer Nicky Henderson would love to take him there on the back of a win at Ascot. He goes to Cheltenham to defend his two mile crown in the Champion Chase, and is already odds on to win that race.
Un De Sceaux from the Willie Mullins yard is the one rival that may not run at this stage, depending on the ground. However, if he does run, he is likely to be the one who can serve it up to Altior and trouble him. The problem for the horse is that he loves soft ground, the softer the better for him, and he is unlikely to get that at Ascot. That may put the yard off sending him over for the race, but even if they do run, the ground is not likely to suit him.
Perhaps the most interesting runner in the race is Fox Norton, who went close in a Champion Chase two years ago. He stepped up in trip and we haven’t seen him since running in the King George at Kempton just over a year ago. He goes back to two miles here, and like Altior he is a staying two miler, not a speedster, so it will be interesting to see how they go when they clash. This is his first run for a long time, and the bigger picture is the Champion Chase, so expect him to come on a lot for this run and if he gets anywhere near to Altior, I’m sure the Colin Tizzard yard will be thrilled.
Rounding off the field is Diego Du Charmil from the Paul Nicholls yard and while he lacks the top quality that these posess, he is an impressive chaser and deserves his place in a race like this. He is likely to be competing for minor honours though, and should come up short against whichever big guns take to the track on Saturday.
The Clarence House Chase has long since been a good two mile race and although we are lacking the quantity of runners, if these four all show up then we are in for a treat on Saturday. The early betting has Altior as the strong odds on favourite to take the race, with Un De Sceaux in behind, Fox Norton third and Diego Du Charmil rounding off the quartet as the outsider of the field.