'Sire' can have last laugh on Ascot rivals
Revitalised former champ should relish uphill test
Published 23/01/2016 | 02:30
Un De Sceaux is today charged with securing a first Irish-trained victory in Ascot's Clarence House Chase since it became a Grade One in 2007.
Prior to that, Arthur Moore's Conor O'Dwyer-ridden Jeffell had been the most recent cross-channel winner of what was then the popular Victor Chandler handicap in 1998. Willie Mullins's indomitable front-runner is a best-priced 8/13 to end the drought.
A relentless force of nature as a novice, he is a mud-lover that coped admirably with drier ground at Cheltenham and Punchestown to complete a hat-trick of thrilling Grade One successes. Moreover, he did all that after crashing three-out on his chasing bow at Thurles.
He got a fence further on his return at Leopardstown last month before that ended in similarly dramatic fashion. Given what happened last term, Un De Sceaux shouldn't be any less effective or forgiving now.
In all probability, he will confirm his status as the rising star of the two-mile chasing ranks under Ruby Walsh, which we'd all love to see. However, the betting for the race is far too lop-sided.
Un De Sceaux has still to prove his worth against senior opposition, and he certainly hadn't put the race to bed before exiting at Leopardstown. His blitzkrieg style could exact a toll, so we don't yet know if he has trained on from the precocious animal that he was last term.
At the odds, and with a ready alternative, he is worth opposing with Sire De Grugy. The former champion has bounced back brilliantly this term, and it's worth remembering that he posted one of his most impressive displays when destroying Hidden Cyclone in this in bottomless ground in 2014.
The punishing track suits his grinding style, and it could also render Un De Sceaux vulnerable.
Having always been best in deep ground, regardless of your take on his collision with Special Tiara, Sire De Grugy's Tingle Creek Chase triumph was a cracking turn, as was his narrow defeat to the similarly rejuvenated Sprinter Sacre at Kempton.
He has a fine record at Kempton, but the flat finish ultimately played more to Sprinter Sacre's strengths.
Still, Sire De Grugy again emerged with his reputation intact, and odds of 5/2 about him regaining the winning thread here for Gary and Jamie Moore here look generous.
Vroum Vroum Mag is one to watch rather than back at short odds in the mares' race, so the other horse to keep on side is Regal Encore in the Bet365 Handicap Chase.
Barry Geraghty has a few nice rides at the meeting, but his main reason for eschewing Navan is to partner JP McManus's Anthony Honeyball-trained charge.
While this two-mile-five-furlong contest is competitive, Regal Encore is unexposed. Placed off a mark of 137 over flights at Aintree in the spring, he improved to post his most polished performance over fences when scoring at Plumpton last time.
Regal Encore really looked the part on that occasion, and today he makes his handicap bow in this sphere off 144. At odds of up to 9/2, he is value to follow up.