Ascot Clarence House Chase Day Preview
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Ascot Clarence House Chase Day Preview

Ascot's Grade 1 Clarence House Chase has attracted two of the most exciting unbeaten two-milers to Berkshire for what could be round one of an intriguing rivalry if they both remain fit and well. Shishkin and Energumene bring star quality to the big race at 3.35pm and it's not to be missed. They race at Ascot from 12.35pm-4.05pm with conditions set to be 'Soft, good to soft in places' and The Racing Post previews what should be a thrilling day of racing.


12.35 - SBK Betting Podcast Juvenile Hurdle (1m7½f)

Graystone was still holding a lead over Irish Hill when he crashed out at Taunton (2m½f, good to soft) last month and his earlier Warwick win bodes well for this softer ground. Interestingly, Lucy Wadham has elected to put talented 10lb claimer Corey McGivern on board here and that's a chunky help.

Irish Hill took full advantage of that late departure to score last time and Paul Nicholls' charge is very much the sort to improve from that first appearance on a British racecourse. He gets a pair of cheekpieces added now and is right in the mix for this opener.

Alan King's TWILIGHT TWIST could be one to down the pair. A Huntingdon winner earlier in the season on hurdles bow, last month's Cheltenham fourth in a Triumph Hurdle Trial has been advertised by the second and third winning their next starts. He was conceding weight to the trio in front of him that afternoon and is capable of better.

Though he remained a maiden on the Flat, Doctor Parnassus wasn't without talent and he's one to note in the betting having moved to the Skeltons ahead of this hurdles bow.

Selection: Twilight Twist

Next Best: Irish Hill

1.10 - SBK Handicap Chase (3m)

David Maxwell and Cat Tiger were carried out on their swords at Doncaster last month over three-miles on soft ground, nosed out by Kalooki after a real ding-dong of a battle on Town Moor. The Paul Nicholls-trainer 8YO has gone up 4lb in defeat and now must concede weight to the field, which might make things tougher on him.

The likes of Mr Muldoon and Cobolobo are capable, the latter was second in this race last year, if they can find their best stuff though that remains a doubt currently.

Downtown Getaway scored last time at Ffos Las on testing ground but neither his stamina nor the ability to back up a good run to be leaned on too heavily.

DIDERO VALLIS therefore is the best option for a Venetia Williams team in continuing good form. He's a three-time chase winner and his Ludlow second over this trip last month amounted to something close to his best form. Off the same mark and with his rider taking 7lb off, he should go well.

Selection: Didero Vallis

Next Best: Mr Muldoon

1.45 - SBK Holloway's Handicap Hurdle (2m3f)

Garry Clermont is back on an upward curve this season despite narrow defeats at this track in this November/December visits. He chased home Captain Morgs in the first of those and was a clear third behind Tritonic since in a Grade 3 handicap off a 1lb lower mark than this one. It's not hard to see him challenging again for Jonjo O'Neill Snr and Jr.

However, UNEXPECTED PARTY might just have that bit more to hide from the assessor currently.

He's only had five starts and was a good winner of a Wetherby novice event over 2m5½f in October. On his latest run, he was second back over the same C&D on Boxing Day behind an improver. He was worn down very late, with the front two well clear and a 6lb rise could be tolerable for Dan Skelton's charge as he drops slightly in trip here.

Kateson represents a trainer in form and has made the frame in both hurdles starts since joining Alistair Ralph. He's another dropping back in distance and has to be considered a player.

Selection: Unexpected Party

Next Best: Kateson

2.20 - SBK Mares' Hurdle (Grade 2, 2m7½f)

The market is likely to find little between Molly Ollys Wishes, Western Victory and My Sister Sarah.

The first-named is trained by Dan Skelton and she has won four of her last six starts, the only defeats in the sequence coming in graded races against males. Good ground probably wasn't in her favour here over shorter in November when she was last of five in a race won by possible high-class stayer Buzz. She can bounce back with conditions/trip no concern.

My Sister Sarah easily won a Listed Kempton Mares' event in November over further and has since been well held in a stronger Grade 3 in Ireland. She's trained by Willie Mullins but isn't a star of the stable and consistency isn't one of her strong suits.

Western Victory has joined Emma Lavelle from Ireland and is a thoroughly likeable mare with a good attitude to her racing. At nine, she's the oldest in the line-up. She is, though, joint top-rated and won't be found wanting if she gets into the scrap late on.

Emmpressive Lady won well at Kempton last month over this trip but has more to locate if hoping to score in this company and so a chance is given to ANYTHINGFORLOVE.

Jamie Snowden's charge has won 4-7 hurdles starts and got back on track after a couple of spins over fences when scoring at Ffos Las on heavy ground over this sort of trip in December.

She did well to give improving Martello Sky most to think about this month at Sandown down in trip and while needing more to oblige in this company, this is just her second crack at a trip such as this and she might well have more in the locker as a stayer.

Selection: Anythingforlove

Next Best: Molly Ollys Wishes

2.55 - bet365 Handicap Chase (2m5f)

Top-weight Fanion D'estruval scored with loads in hand at Newbury in November, taking the return to handicapping company in his stride. He races from an 8lb higher mark here, though his rider can offset the majority of that. With Venetia Williams' string in rude health, he looks a worth favourite to follow up.

Palmers Hill, Killer Clown, Golden Whisky and Amour de Nuit all join him in having won their most recent starts.

A first-time tongue-tie seemingly was a key aid for Emma Lavelle's Killer Clown in his Wincanton success and it wouldn't be a shock if he's capable of better than this new mark of 142.

Phoenix Way produced a much better effort here over three-miles last time and might build on that for Harry Fry in the McManus hoops but maybe KNIGHT IN DUBAI can earn a first win since 2019.

He missed 606 days prior to his Aintree run in November and he shaped well there. Since that, he has finished third behind Palmers Hill at this venue over 2m3f. He's 9lb better off with that rival now over this longer trip and could build on those two pleasing efforts.

Selection: Knight In Dubai

Next Best: Fanion D'estruval

3.35 - SBK Clarence House Chase (Grade 1, 2m1f)

What a rare treat this promises to be as unbeaten chasers Shiskin and ENERGUMENE lock horns. It's a credit to their connections that they take each other on here, a mere eight weeks and change out from the Cheltenham Festival and it should deliver a fierce contest.

Last year's Arkle winner, Shishkin rewarded the patience of Nicky Henderson with his Grade 2 Desert Orchid win at Kempton last month. He'd skipped the Tingle Creek previously to that and easily swatted aside the Sandown scorer Greaneteen over Christmas.

The Seven Barrows inmate has been faultless over fences and is rightly odds-on here, but this could be his biggest challenge so far.

Front-running Energumene has looked a potent weapon thus far for Willie Mullins and has routinely thrashed his rivals. He was a Grade 1-winning novice last term and won Cork's Hilly Way in December's comeback.

He's never met anything like Shishkin before, but with the favourite prone to hitting a flat-spot in races, Paul Townend's mount is the type to make him pay a hefty cost in that scenario.

It's a mouthwatering class - whatever side you fall on - and the great news is they should re-engage at Cheltenham in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in two months' time.

Last year's winner First Flow likes it here but was stepped up to 2m4f when landing the Peterborough Chase in his comeback run. It would be a shock if he's able to match this high-class pair, while Amoola Gold is surely reliant on accidents.

Selection: Energumene

Next Best: Shishkin

4.05 - SBK British EBF 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle (2m5½f)

Dan and Harry Skelton will hope there's plenty more to come from the mare GALIA DES LITEAUX after her emphatic debut win at Wetherby (2m3½f, soft) on Boxing Day. She was a winner of her only Irish point before joining this top team and she sauntered away from the field in west Yorkshire.

The exact worth of that form is hard to quantify, but runner-up Fonzerelli was much more competitive in a novice event at Ayr this month, so it's worth assuming it's fair. Further progress is surely forthcoming and the longer trip is not a concern for this promising mare.

This is tougher on paper. She does get 7lb from December's Southwell novice scorer Charles Ritz for trainer Tom George however and that could be telling.

Complete Unknown has the most experience over hurdles and has run well in good races at Chepstow and Kempton en route here for champion trainer Paul Nicholls. He's a player, as should be Jonjo O'Neill's Ffos Las maiden winner Monbeg Genius. They all will do well to quell this useful looking mare for Team Skelton.

Selection: Galia Des Liteaux

Next Best: Complete Unknown




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