The Cheltenham Festival draws ever closer and we continue to hunt down clues on where horses are headed come March. The Clarence House Chase is one of the major trials for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, with big names aplenty winning this race in the past including Master Minded, Twist Magic, Sprinter Sacre, Sire De Grugy and Dodging Bullets. The last two renewals have gone the way of Willie Mullins’ Un De Sceaux, who has a very good chance of making it a hat-trick. As always, there are plenty of trends we can follow to try and find the winner, with all the major trends listed below.
- Experience wins the day – From twenty-seven renewals of the contest, only seven horses aged seven and below have won this race
- A favourites heaven – Since 2009, six odds-on favourites have gone on to score including at odds of 1/5 and 1/2 the last twice
- Look at the ratings – Since 2008, when the race gained its Grade 1 status, only one horse has won this contest rated below 160, that being Tamarinbleu in 2009 (159)
- All about the French breds – Since 2000, eleven of the sixteen winners have been French bred horses
- It’s all in the jumping – Since 2000, all of the winners of the Clarence House had won at least three times over fences prior to the race
From the trends it’s very hard to get away from Un De Sceaux, who is the well supported favourite and is rated well clear of these. A French bred horse who has multiple Grade 1 wins over fences, there is only one trend he must overcome to take victory which is talked about in detail below.
This race revolves around the remarkable Un De Sceaux, who has a huge engine and doesn’t seem to run out of petrol. He arrives here on a hat-trick in the race, winning the 2016 and 2017 renewals at a starting price of 1/2. He’s a general 4/6 to win this year, with his main market rival being Brain Power, who has plenty to prove if the trends have anything to say about it.
Since 2008, when the race was first run as a Grade 1 rather than a handicap, only one horse has won the race rated below 160. That was in fact Tamarinbleu in 2008, with the lowest rated winner since being Dodging Bullets who was rated 165 at the time. That just strengthens the claims of Un De Sceaux, who is the only horse in this race who is rated above 160. Being French bred, he also matches that trend and his plethora of Grade 1 victories strengthens his grip on the race. The only real statistic that he needs to overcome is that no horses over the age of ten have won this race since the first two renewals in 1989 and 1990.
For Brain Power, the trends only serve as a mountain for him to climb as he matches none of them at present, with much of that down to his novice status. His main pitfall then may be his inexperience versus the versatile and battle hardened Un De Sceaux, with him only having two runs over fences thus far. He was giving best to Sceau Royal when unseating in the Henry VIII on his latest start, with that rival now rated 161, which on the face of it leaves him with something to find with Mullins’ charge. No winner since 2000 has won the race with less than three chasing victories, which raises further question marks. All of that said, he still remains with serious potential in this sphere and as a novice, the only way is up for him. He will be hoping the fact that he is still unexposed in this sphere will be enough to match him with the Mullins’ hotpot.
Of the remainder, San Benedeto is rated the same as Brain Power and has six chasing victories to his name, including over course and distance. If either of the market principles were to falter, he should have the edge that will see him gain second ahead of Kylemore Lough. He pulled up on debut for Harry Fry back in November and is yet to really prove himself at this level. The final runner is the 145 rated Speredek, who arrives here as a progressive French bred who is clearly going the right way, but at this level he should be thoroughly outclassed.