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: 23rd January 2021
- Winner: First Flow
- SP: 14/1
- Trainer: Kim Bailey
- Jockey: David Bass
The trip is 2m1f for this Grade 1 Chase contest, with the going at the track currently described as soft and seeming likely to remain that way come race day. Offering a significant sum of £104,500 in total prize money, the event regularly attracts the real cream of the division and looks to have done so once again in 2021.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Soft||2m1f||Grade 1||£104,500||8 Runners||1/5 1-3|
Clarence House Chase Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2021. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Multiple champion trainer Paul Nicholls boasts the all-time lead in this race and would look to have solid claims of adding to his five previous successes this year, as it is his 10 year old grey, Politologue, who currently sits out in front at the head of the market.
The recent stats would suggest that age may be against the market leader though with nine of the past 10 winners being nine years old or younger – the only exception being three-time hero Un de Sceaux who scored as a 10 year old in 2018.
The market leaders have an excellent recent record in this race with eight of the past 10 editions having been landed by the favourite or joint-favourite. The majority of those winners have been odds-on shots though, meaning that supporters of the jolly would have made a profit of only £1.62 to £1 level stakes despite that high strike rate.
|Politologue||11/8||169||Paul Nicholls||Harry Cobden|
|Waiting Patiently||5/2||167||Ruth Jefferson||Brian Hughes|
|Defi Du Seuil||9/2||168||Philip Hobbs||Richard Johnson|
Politologue – 11/8
It’s tight at the top in this year’s renewal, with only two pounds separating the top three on the ratings, who understandably are also the top three in the betting market. The horse they all have to beat, according to both the official handicapper and the betting market, is the current Champion Chase king, Politologue. Some cast doubt upon the quality of that Cheltenham Festival triumph, and whilst, indeed, the 2020 edition may not have been the strongest – particularly with odds on favourite Defi Du Seuil running no sort of race – the strapping grey can have done little more than beat what was put in front of him. And the son of Poliglote didn’t just beat them, he absolutely thrashed them when storming clear up the hill for a nine and a half length success. If in anything like that sort of form here, it’s hard to see him being far away.
Not sighted after that Cheltenham success, the now ten year old made his seasonal return in the Tingle Creek at Sandown and put in a performance which may have made those doubting the quality of his Champion Chase Triumph think again. Jumping beautifully throughout, nothing threatened to get near him that day as he blitzed clear to land his fourth career Grade 1 by seven lengths. The one possible negative is that he has performed best after a significant break in the past, but other than that there is a lot to like about this high-class performer who will have no qualms regarding either the trip or the going.
Waiting Patiently – 5/2
As mentioned, the trends for this race have been against those runners now into double digits. It is therefore interesting that it is another ten year old who comes next in the betting. Not far behind Politologue at the head of affairs, and with only two pounds to find on ratings, comes the Ruth Jefferson-trained runner, Waiting Patiently. This one may be one of the elder statesmen in the field, but is lightly raced for one his age and on his best form would have pretty strong claims.
The fact that the Flemensfirth gelding will be making only his 12th chase start here is admittedly down to the fact that he has had his share of issues over the years. However, when deemed fit and well enough to take to the track, he has performed with admirable consistency – only once finishing outside of the first three in 11 starts over the larger obstacles. Even accounting for that previous reliability, it was still hard to know exactly what to expect when he returned from a 385-day break in no less a race than the King George at Kempton last time out.
In the end, he ran an absolute screamer – employing exaggerated hold-up tactics before storming home to grab second behind Frodon. This big step back down in trip is the obvious question, but his most recent effort in a comparable race – when again flying home to be beaten just a length behind Defi Du Seuil and Un De Sceaux in the 2019 Tingle Creek – provides plenty of cause for optimism. A previous Grade 1 winner and in good heart, this one will be doing all of his best work late and may well reel them in.
Defi Du Seuil – 9/2
Speaking of Defi De Seuil, it was he who came home in front in this in 2020, and the Philip Hobbs representative returns to defend his crown. Looking back at last year’s race, it’s hard not to be impressed with just how easily the JP McManus runner won that day, cantering to the front and barely having to be asked a question in seeing off the three-time winner of the race, Un De Sceaux. If judged solely on that run, he would most likely be the clear favourite here. He is however only third in the betting, largely because absolutely nothing has gone right for him since that success.
So eye-catching was his win in the race last year that Defi Du Seuil was sent off at odds of just 2/5 for the Champion Chase, only to never raise a gallop in beating only one home. It is usually wise to forgive a horse one poor performance, but unfortunately, the mount of Richard Johnson threw in another when stopping quickly and being pulled up on his seasonal return at Cheltenham. That said, he has been given plenty of time to recover from that November outing and has bounced back from similarly disappointing spells in the past. Overall, this one may be arriving with questions to answer, but as a seven-time Grade 1 winner, who is proven under the conditions, he certainly can’t be dismissed.
Clarence House Chase Winners
|2021||First Flow||14/1||Kim Bailey||David Bass|
|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|
*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.