The highlight of this Saturday’s racing is the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase over 2m1f at Ascot. With the absence of Sprinter Sacre, the 2m chasing division has been dominated this season by Sire De Grugy, winner of both the Tingle Creek and Desert Orchid Chase. He aims for another Grade 1 victory in this contest in a field made up of 7 quality runners. Here are my thoughts and tips for the race!
Starting with the favourite, Sire De Grugy (11/8 Stan James) has shown a consistently good level of form throughout the season so far and has racked up three victories out of the four races he has contested. Touted, at the start of this season by his trainer, as a genuine contender for Sprinter Sacre’s Queen Mother Champion Chase crown, he has done everything asked of him and looks likely to be a warm favourite on Saturday. Despite this, I’m of the firm belief that he is worth opposing especially at the short price on offer. In my eyes his victories in the Desert Orchid and in the Tingle Creek Chase were by no means impressive. Starting with the Tingle Creek at Sandown, his jumping throughout was sketchy and, had it not been for his ability to travel strongly and the fact Captain Conan blew up in the home straight, he may well not have won. In the Desert Orchid his jumping was better but still lacked the fluency of a top class 2m horse and he wasn't really pressed at any stage (the second place finisher was Oiseau De Nuit who was sent off a 33/1 shot). The form of both races doesn’t look the strongest and despite having performed well on soft ground, I really think the ground was a disadvantage for him at Kempton last time out. With the current forecast, the ground at Ascot looks likely to be very testing and with that in mind there must be concern as to whether or not the horse will be seen to best effect in the conditions. I believe he won’t be and I believe he’s worth opposing.
So I’m happy to take him on but with which of his rivals? On official figures, Somersby (7/2 bet365) is only rated 5lbs inferior to the favourite and has the added advantage of both course and distance form. In fact, his form at Ascot in general is mightily impressive with the course seemingly playing to his strengths. From five visits to the venue, he has won once and been placed in another three races which included a shoulder length defeat to the legendary Master Minded, a multiple Grade 1 winner rated 178. He certainly appreciates cut in the ground as he won his first appearance of the season in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on good to soft ground yet he too may not fully appreciate deep ground. On a more favourable note, his latest run came at Sandown in the Desert Orchid Chase where he finished four lengths behind Sire De Grugy but was staying on near the line. He will have to improve on that effort to turn the form around and at the age of 10 thats difficult, however the track and the extra furlong on offer should bring out the best in him.
Next in the market we find the first of two Irish challengers, HIDDEN CYCLONE (7/2 BetVictor). This horse has shown a good level of form throughout the season. After winning on his first start at Listowel, he went on to contest the Paddy Power Gold Cup where he finished third beaten two and half lengths, and on his latest start he was beaten by a length at Leopardstown in the Grade 1 Dial-A-Bet Chase. His last two races are particularly impressive when you consider that in the Paddy Power he was giving 13lbs to both the first and the second, and in the Dial-A-Bet Chase he rallied to finish well after being interfered with by the winner. Clearly this horse has more to come, and his ability to stay further than 2m1f coupled with his form on truly heavy ground will stand him in very good stead on Saturday. His jumping can sometimes be quite erratic and he is prone to the odd mistake but, on the balance of things, he could well rate the biggest danger to the favourite.
The other Irish challenger is the Henry De Bromhead trained, Days Hotel (12/1 Stan James). Since 2012 this horse has only contested races of Grade 2 class or better and has achieved a trio of victories at that level all on testing ground. So far this season he has finished a close second to Flemenstar and then followed that up with a disappointing show at Cork where a bad mistake five out put pay to his chances. The manner in which he hit that fence and then struggled after is a definite concern and a lot will depend on whether he has recovered his jumping confidence. In a contest that includes strong Champion Chase contenders, he may well find one or two too good.
The remainder of the field is made up of two horses, Kauto Stone (14/1 bet365) and Oiseau De Nuit (16/1 Ladbrokes) who are both held on form by Sire De Grugy; and the outsider Lancetto (33/1 Ladbrokes), a horse yet to win outside handicap company. It is is difficult to envisage the former pair reversing their respective form with the Sire De Grguy, and Lancetto simply lacks the class to trouble the race principles. All three are big priced runners and that looks to be an accurate reflection of their chances.
Sire De Grugy has performed well at the highest level this season, yet there is a sense that without Sprinter Sacre the 2m division, at least in Britain, is relatively uncompetitive and he hasn’t had a lot to beat. Certainly there may not be a lot to beat in this field but with question marks over the ground and the fact the horse is prone to the odd jumping error I cant bring myself to back him at odds just better than even money. The conditions look like they are going to be particularly testing on Saturday and with that in mind my preference would be for a horse with guaranteed stamina and good form on testing ground. HIDDEN CYCLONE certainly fits that description and could well put the favourite under serious pressure.
HIDDEN CYCLONE (WIN) (7/2 BetVictor)
Simply follow these simple steps –
1. click on the above link
2. create an account and enter your details
3. your initial bet will be matched up to £25