One of the final really big two mile chase contests prior to the Cheltenham Festival lights up a strong the card at Ascot in January as the contenders go to post for the Clarence House Chase. This event has been won by a number of the true greats of the game over the years, including seven horses who have gone on to claim Queen Mother Champion Chase glory.
The first running of the race was relatively recently, coming back in 1989. This was at the third attempt after frost put pay to the meeting in 1987 and fog caused abandonment in 1988.
Next Race: TBD
The next renewal of this race has not been scheduled yet. We will update this once the schedule has been released for next season. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 18th January 2020
- Winner: Defi Du Seuil
- SP: 11/10
- Trainer: Philip Hobbs
- Jockey: Barry Geraghty
It’s a trip of 2m1f for this Grade 1 Chase contest which offers £150,000 in guaranteed prize money. The ground at the track is currently described as soft with more rain forecast in the lead up to the race.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Soft||2m1f||Grade 1||£150,000||5 Runners||1/4 1-2|
Clarence House Chase Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from the last running of the race. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Not all races touted as Cheltenham Festival Trials truly live up to that billing, but that accusation can’t be levelled at this contest, with seven previous winners going on to claim top spot in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
We have a pair of very familiar names atop the trainers’ table for this race, with old rivals Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson in a share for the lead with five wins apiece. The duo can boast quite the roll of honour too, with the likes of Dodging Bullets and Master Minded from the Nicholls yard, and Henderson’s sensational duo of Sprinter Sacre and Altior all featuring on the list of previous winners.
In terms of age, seven to nine years old seems to be the place to be, with nine of the past 10 winners falling into that category. Those to have kept it simple by backing the favourite would have collected on an impressive eight victories in the past decade – returning a level stakes profit of 2.95pts.
DEFI DU SEUIL – 4/5
Current favourite for this year’s edition is the undoubted star of the Philip Hobbs operation, Defi Du Seuil. It has been quite the comeback for this seven year old, who many were ready to write off completely on the back of what was a desperately disappointing five year old campaign. A perfect seven from seven as a juvenile – including three Grade 1 successes – he promptly lost the plot completely at five – beating a total of just two rivals home in his first three starts, when going down by a combined 69 and a half lengths. How the mighty had fallen…
Fast forward to last season, and it seems that whatever had been ailing the horse was now all but a distant memory, as 2019 saw the JP McManus runner bounce right back to his best. Conquering Lostintranslation in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, he then repeated the trick with a classy display in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, before rounding off his campaign with a gallant second to the extremely highly regarded Willie Mullins runner, Chacun Pour Soi.
A perfect two from two in the current campaign, having seen of Champion Chase runner up Politologue in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham, and mastered Un De Sceaux in Sandown’s Tingle Creek Chase, he stays the trip well, travels and quickens nicely, and looks set to make a bold bid under Barry Geraghty.
UN DE SCEAUX – 6/4
If Defi Du Seuil is to take this, then the likelihood is that he will need to be at his very best to do so, as lying in wait once again is Willie Mullins’ tough and talented 12 year old, Un De Sceaux. He did lose out to the market leader last time out, but certainly went down on his sword in coming up only a neck short on the day. Over two lengths down at one stage, he made ground all the way to the line, suggesting that the additional distance of this race may help turn the tables.
Age may be against the mount of Paul Townend, but he has just about everything else in his favour – most notably his form over this course and distance. Un De Sceaux has run just twice at this track in the past, winning both times, with both of those wins coming in this contest. Five lengths too good for Sire De Grugy in 2016, he improved on that margin to score by 7l in 2018. Having also landed this prize in 2017 when the race took place at Cheltenham, he is bidding for an unprecedented fourth success this time around. One thing’s for sure, this bold jumping front runner will give it his very best shot.
JANIKA – 10/1
The other three contenders look up against it on the form book, although it would perhaps prove unwise to dismiss Nicky Henderson’s Janika out of hand. Sitting on a mark of 165, he is only a pound inferior to Defi Du Seuil, and five pounds adrift of Un De Sceaux according to the official handicapper. That rating stems from his victory in the Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter earlier in the campaign, when seeing off the likes of Dolos, Lalor and Destrier. This looks significantly tougher.
Janika has already met both Defi Du Seuil and Un De Sceaux once already this season, when filling fourth spot in that Tingle Creek contest at Sandown. That wasn’t a bad run by any means, but does leave him with nine lengths to find with the market principles. Connections reach for the first-time tongue tie in an effort to squeeze out more and it will be interesting to see if this has anything like the desired effect.
Clarence House Chase Winners
|2020||Defi Du Seuil||11/10||Philip Hobbs||Barry Geraghty|
|2019||Altior||1/10||Nicky Henderson||Nico de Boinville|
|2018||Un De Sceaux||4/9||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|2017*||Un De Sceaux||1/2||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2016||Un De Sceaux||1/2||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2015||Dodging Bullets||7/2||Paul Nicholls||Noel Fehily|
|2014||Sire De Grugy||5/4||Gary Moore||Jamie Moore|
|2013*||Sprinter Sacre||1/5||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
|2012||Somersby||9/2||Henrietta Knight||Dominic Elsworth|
|2011||Master Minded||4/7||Paul Nicholls||A P McCoy|
*Races took place at Cheltenham in January after frost led to the cancellation of racing at Ascot.
About the Clarence House Chase
Horse racing is a historic sport, with many of its greatest contests dating to the 19th or even 18th century. Many of the biggest races of both the National Hunt and Flat racing seasons have been going for 100 years or more and therefore have many memorable renewals to historians of the game to muse upon.
Dessie Defies Top Weight
Amongst that history the Clarence House Chase is both a real youngster and also something of a rarity as the most memorable edition was the very first. That inaugural race back in 1989 was won by Desert Orchid, one of the most storied and popular horses in racing’s long history. As they approached the closing stages it looked for all the world as though Panto Prince was pulling away to claim the win but then came the legendary words of Sir Peter O’Sullevan, “and Dessie’s fighting back like a tiger.”
Desert Orchid did indeed fight back to win by a head despite giving up a massive 22 pounds on Panto Prince in the race which was then known as the Victor Chandler Chase. Officially it’s always been registered as the Clarence House Chase but after Victor Chandler’s sponsorship ended it’s been sponsored by both Sodexo and Royal Salute Whisky.
It’s not just the name that has changed since Desert Orchid’s remarkable win in 1989. His win came when the Clarence House Chase was still a handicap and run over 2 miles. It’s since become a Grade 1 contest and has been extended to an official distance of 2 miles and 167 yards.
All Roads Lead to Cheltenham
That distance coupled with the prestige that came when it was promoted to Grade 1 level in 2007 means that the Ascot race is a key contest in the lead up to the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. The table below shows the horses that have won both races, with the years highlighted in bold showing where the two contests have been won in the same season.
Dual Clarence House Chase/Champion Chase Winners
|Horse||Trainer||Clarence House Chase Wins||Champion Chase Wins|
|Altior||Nicky Henderson||2019||2018, 2019|
|Dodging Bullets||Paul Nicholls||2015||2015|
|Sire De Grugy||Gary Moore||2014||2014|
|Sprinter Sacre||Nicky Henderson||2013||2013, 2016|
|Master Minded||Paul Nicholls||2009, 2011||2008, 2009|
|Call Equiname||Paul Nicholls||1999||1999|
|Martha’s Son||Tim Forster||1995||1997|
|Viking Flagship||David Nicholson||1994||1994, 1995|
In all, seven horses followed up victory in the Clarence House Chase with a win in the Champion Chase. However, neither Viking Flagship nor Call Equiname, the first two horses to complete the double, actually won the race at Ascot as the 1994 renewal was switched to Warwick and the 1999 renewal took place at Kempton Park.
The Clarence House Chase is vulnerable to being switched from Ascot as the Hunt course doesn’t always take well to the January conditions. In fact, there were two false starts as both the scheduled 1987 and 1988 contests had to be abandoned due to frost and fog respectively.
The often unpredictable conditions and the challenging nature of the ground and the fences on Ascot’s Hunt course mean that many leading trainers prefer a different route for their leading Champion Chase contenders.
That should not take away from the calibre and importance of the Clarence House Chase though, which always provides some welcome National Hunt drama early in the New Year. Moreover, with recent winners of the standard of Sprinter Sacre and Master Minded, this is clearly a top notch contest.
Nicholls & Henderson Vying for Supremacy
Certain trainers have a real affinity with this race and do their best to convince connections to send their horses to the Berkshire course. It’s always worth taking a look at the horses trained by Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson, who have won the Clarence House Chase ten times between them. Despite Ascot being a track that is believed to suit certain types of horse, it is interesting that Master Minded and Un De Sceaux are the only horses to have won the race more than once.