There’s a real eye-catching National Hunt affair this Saturday which will see two of jump racing’s most fancied flyers do battle.
The Clarence House Chase from Ascot will see Un De Sceaux and Sire De Grugy lock horns in a chase just over two miles in length. With the going set to be rather spongy and heavy in places, this could be a real leveller between these two stand-out horses and the other trio in the field.
Un De Sceaux goes off as the bookmakers’ favourite at 1.62, and jockey Ruby Walsh is confident that the eight-year-old is up to the task following a costly fall at Leopardstown in his last outing. “I couldn’t have been happier with him before he fell, I was travelling really well, I saw a stride and asked him, but he changed his mind,” Walsh said.
That defeat was his first of the year, and prior to that he had enjoyed success with a hat-trick of Grade One wins, including the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and he will naturally be tough to overcome here.
The Ruby Walsh-Willie Mullins combination is a tough one, and realistically you would argue that Sire De Grugy is the only horse that can halt Un De Sceaux’s hopes here.
The Gary Moore trained chaser won this race back in 2014, and also triumphed in the much vaunted Champion Chase as part of a stellar year.
The ten-year-old is also coming back to form after a mixed season, with a win in the competitive Tingle Creek at Sandown a matter of weeks ago a nod to how well he is jumping at the moment. His duel against the unrivalled Sprinter Sacre in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton was exhilarating, and he is not diminished in an way by coming out second best there.
Moore is confident of success at Ascot on Saturday. “He is in great order and as good as can be expected, so it’s fingers crossed. If anything he is a fraction better than last time,” he said.
“He’s better in softer ground, he makes soft ground look like good ground. It would definitely make his chances better.”
It’s fair to say that Sire De Grugy would be shorter priced but for a miserable 2014 campaign where he looked outclassed at times in more competitive fields, but a renaissance of sorts early in 2015/16 will renew hope for fans of this stylish jumper.
At 3.50 and as a more reliable leaper than Un De Sceaux, Sire De Grugy is one of those betting tips that could reward the brave punter who backs against a well-fancied favourite.
Two to Follow
As mentioned, this is only a five horse field and so the each way value – most bookies will be paying on a top two finish – is a little stingy.
Nevertheless, two of the outsiders in this race boast plenty of good quality and could vie for attention should one of the big two fail to fire.
Vibrato Valtat (12.00) is a proven performer who has mixed it with the best in the past – he finished third in that Desert Orchid Classic behind Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre, and if trainer Paul Nicholls is to be believed then this is a horse that won’t look out of place amongst such good company.
“He probably ran to his best at Kempton the other day behind two Champion Chase winners,” he said. “This horse has come from being a 121-rated hurdler to being on the fringe of a Grade One horse and actually winning a Grade One last year.”
Vibrato Valtat won four of his five starts last term, including that Grade One Henry VIII Chase that Nicholls alluded to, although defeat to Un De Sceaux subsequently in the Arkle means that he has been left eating the dust of the two favourites here in the past.
As we say, he will need for one of the big to be off form, but having seen Un De Sceaux go down twice already in his short career there is an opportunity here for a 12.00 each way payout, and that forms the second of BetAdvisor’s betting tips for the Clarence House Chase.