Stuart Williams takes an in-depth look at the runners for the Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
Clarence House Chase Preview & Runners Guide
Paul Nicholls has plundered this Grade 1 this prize on no fewer than four occasions since it became a conditions race in 2008, and was also victorious with Call Equiname in it's previous guise as a handicap in 1999. Three of his four winners landed the spoils en route to success in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, including his most recent winner Dodging Bullets in 2015.
The eleven time champion trainer will call upon December's Tingle Creek hero, and indeed reigning champion chaser, Politologue this weekend, alongside stablemate and 2019 Arkle Chase hero Duc Des Genievres, who does seem to have been rejuvenated by the switch from Closutton to Ditcheat.
Last year's impressive winner Defi Du Seuil will attempt to get his career back on track following lacklustre efforts on his two subsequent starts. While King VI Chase runner-up Waiting Patiently is a fascinating contender if the dreaded bounce factor doesn't strike.
Kim Bailey's rapidly progressive chaser First Flow ran out a good winner of a competitive handicap chase over this course and distance in November and will attempt to secure a sixth consecutive success. While fellow second season chaser Fanion D'Estruval is also an interesting prospect who hails from the in-form yard of Venetia Williams.
As always, let's take a more in-depth look at each of the eight contenders whom will go to post on Saturday.
Clarence House Chase Runners
Reigning champion chaser Politologue has already added a second Tingle Creek success to his impressive CV this season and is righty warm order to collect a third successive Grade 1 victory on Saturday. However, he will have to do so without the assistance of Harry Skelton, whom has decided has decided to partner his brothers Nube Negra for the remainder of the season.
Clearly that is no reflection on Politologue himself and Harry Cobden, who will take over riding duties, has ridden the grey on multiple occasions including his first Tingle Creek success and when narrowly being denied by Altior in the 2019 Champion Chase. Therefore the change of pilot should have no impact upon the level of performance.
Paul Nicholls was quick to point out that he had tweaked a few things in preparation for the Champion Chase last March and connections have clearly reaped the rewards of those changes hand over fist. However, it is interesting that they have decided to run here given that much of his success has been attributed to being really fresh, which is not necessarily the case on this occasion.
That said, his presence is a clear indication that he is in very good shape at home and he is most certainly the one that they all have to beat on all known form this season.
Waiting Patiently looked like a potential superstar when landing the Grade 1 Ascot Chase in 2018 and, with so few miles on the clock after just 14 career starts, it's possible that he has a lot more to offer in spite of turning ten this month. Indeed, his runner-up effort in last months King George VI Chase certainly suggested as much, and the fact that connections are prepared to go again so soon with a horse that has been so fragile is clearly an indication of their confidence.
It may seem a tad strange dropping back from 3 mile to 2, especially given how well he saw out that race. However, his seemingly turbo charged finishing kick can in part be attributed the lack of pace throughout the race that clearly favoured the speedier types over their sounder staying rivals, and let's not forget that favourite Politologue also tested his stamina when placing fourth in the festive showpiece in 2018.
Indeed, Ruth Jefferson's charge proved his effectiveness over this trip when placing third, beaten less than a length, behind Defi Du Seuil in the 2019 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, and his Kempton spin clearly revealed that his high performance engine remains in tact in spite of his 385 day absence.
Clearly the dreaded bounce factor is a concern, especially as he tends to have a much bigger break between his races. However, connections are clearly happy with how he is at present and appear intent on making the most of him while they can.
Defi Du Seuil
Defi Du Seuil carried all before him in this division until blowing-up at Cheltenham last March, and he had the aforementioned Politologue in behind on more than one occasion. However, nothing came to light to explain his champion chase flop and he was pulled-up in the Grade 2 Shloer Chase on his solitary start this season, which leaves him with questions to answer.
Philip Hobbs multiple Grade 1 winner impressively put three-time Clarence House Chase scorer Un De Sceaux to the sword in this contest last year when deploying his customary turn of foot to devastating effect. However, his inability to lay down even a semblance of a challenge since is naturally concerning, and he won't have anywhere to hide in this Grade 1 contest with Politologue jumping boldly at the head of affairs.
Clearly a resurgence not dissimilar to that of his novice chase campaign cannot be ruled out, and a peak Defi Du Seuil would most certainly be a fearsome contender. However, you will be asked to take a relatively short price in order to find out, which perhaps isn't the wisest move to make.
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Duc Des Genievres
It's fair to say that Duc Des Genievres lost his way after landing an admittedly weak Arkle in 2019, however, he has displayed glimmers of a rival in two starts for Paul Nicholls this season, firstly when just failing to hold last year's Arkle heroine Put The Kettle On at Cheltenham in November, and laterally when chasing home Nube Negra and Altior in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.
His enthusiasm for the game was clear to see at Cheltenham and he is undoubtedly a smart horse when in the right frame of mind. However, these are deeper waters than those in which he has swam so far this season and he has upwards of 8lbs to find with the top three in the betting on official ratings. Therefore he perhaps boasts place claims at best.
Fanion D'Estruval looked like a potential superstar when sauntering to a facile 6 lengths success on his British debut at Newbury last season and his runner-up effort in competitive handicap company at Cheltenham in October, when attempting to defy top-weight from a mark of 150, was a creditable one in defeat.
Stepped-up in trip for the rescheduled Grade 2 Peterborough Chase at Cheltenham last month, Fanion D'Estruval was still travelling well when falling at three-out and connections are clearly still in two minds about what his best trip may be. However, he did disappoint when going right-handed at Kempton as a novice and this is clearly a huge leap in terms of class. Therefore he is perhaps best watched in spite of his yards fine form.
First Flow is another contender whom has plenty to find on official ratings, however, he arrives in good heart having won his last five starts and he did run out a good winner of a competitive handicap chase over this course and distance in November.
Kim Bailey's charge defied a mark of 148 on that occasion and the form looks solid as the runner-up, Amoola Gold, chased home a clearly well handicapped Sky Pirate at Warwick last weekend, while the third placed Capeland scored at Wincanton two weeks ago.
The mud loving nine-year-old has since been victorious off a mark of 154 and will obviously enjoy the the testing conditions that Ascot will serve up. However, he has been known to make mistake or two in his races, which he won't get away with here, and he will naturally have to take a giant leap forwards if those towards the head of the betting run to form.
Bun Doran landed the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton last season before placing third in the Champion Chase during the spring. Clearly form of that nature warrants his place in this field, albeit neither were stellar renewals.
Tom George's ten-year-old is clearly no mug, however, he has failed to land a blow in both the Haldon Gold Cup and the Peterborough Chase already this season, and even a return to his very best form would still leave him with something to find.
Le Patriote is already 2-4 over fences having scored victories over last season's Batfair Hurdle hero Pic D'Orhy and Grade 1 winning novice hurdler Elixir De Nutz at Market Rasen and Hereford respectively. However, he has been well held on both of his starts in Grade 2 novice company, and it's fair it say that he lacks the required experience and indeed class to make his presence felt in this company.
Clarence House Chase Tips
Defi Du Seuil was an impressive winner of this race 12 months ago and would undoubtedly be a huge player if rediscovering that form. However, his two lacklustre efforts since offer little in the way of encouragement and his supporters, who will be buoyed by Philip Hobbs' double at Newbury on Thursday, are most likely acting in hope rather than expectation.
The fragile but talented Waiting Patiently notched his solitary Grade 1 success at this venue in February 2018 and he confirmed that his high class engine remains intact when chasing home Frodon in last month's King George VI Chase. This is a quick turnaround for a horse whom tends to be given time between his races, however, his presence clearly indicates that connections are happy with him and the drop back in trip will not be an issue if he retains the gears that saw him place third, beaten less than a length, in the 2019 Tingle Creek Chase.
However, POLITOLOGUE is arguably the only contender in this field whom has nothing to prove and he is undoubtedly the one to beat on all known form over the last 10 months. John Hales' grey is 2-3 at Ascot and he won't be in inconvenienced by the testing ground. His prominent style of running and bold, fluent fencing will put pressure on his rivals in behind, and his master trainer, who has his string in fine form at present, would not be running him this weekend if he wasn't fully tuned up and in flying form at home. He should therefore prove a tough nut to crack.
Clarence House Chase Entries
- Waiting Patiently
- Defi Du Seuil
- Fanion Destruval
- First Flow
- Duc Des Genievres
- Bun Doran
- Le Patriote
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