Clarence House Review

Clarence House 2015 Review

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Despite a host of big name horses competing in extremely valuable races (such as The New One, and the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock) the racing world’s eyes were focused firmly on one thing on Saturday. It would be incorrect to say that thing was the Clarence House Chase held at Ascot. Despite the field containing no less than 4 Grade 1 winners, the horse everyone was there to see was the one and only Sprinter SacreRead on for my Clarence House review!

Sprinter Sacre

One of the most eagerly awaited comebacks of the 21st century (even ahead of S Club 7 reforming), the last time Sprinter Sacre had been seen was the 27th December 2013 when he was pulled up sharply by Barry Geraghty in the Desert Orchid Chase. Sent off 2/9 for that race, he was pulled up half way round – “all of a sudden he went from going to not going, so I pulled him up straight away” Geraghty reported.

He was later reported to be found to have been suffering artrial fibrillation – essentially an irregular heartbeat. It’s not an altogether uncommon occurrence; Denman won the Hennessy Gold Cup less than a year after undergoing an operation to correct it. Good news for Sprinter Sacre was that he required no operation to correct it, but nonetheless he was off the track for 2013.

Finally, to the event in question – the Clarence House Chase. After opening at Evens for his comeback, the state of the ground deteriorated to the point where 2/1 was available. 2/1 for Sprinter Sacre! He hadn’t even been odds against since December 2011, 10 starts ago. Henderson walked the course on the Friday and confirmed he’d run, and his price contracted back to Evens – he was eventually sent off 4/6 favourite.

The talk about his layoff and his heart scare may seem irrelevant, or at least overdiscussed, but both are crucial in the context of the Clarence House Chase. There was never any question of Barry Geraghty throwing the kitchen sink at Sprinter Sacre; there were too many question marks over his fitness still, whatever his home work or public schooling were showing. Indeed, in notching up his 9 consecutive Graded victories, Geraghty never had to show him the whip, even when beating class horses like Sizing Europe and Cue Card. His victory must be taken in both the context that he was 13 months off the track and he was given a fairly careful ride, but also note must be taken that it’s been a long, long time since any horse even looked like beating him. More on the race itself shortly.

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Dodging Bullets

The 7/2 second  favourite, and the eventual victor of the race, Dodging Bullets has been something of a revelation since tackling the bigger obstacles. That’s not to say he wasn’t an excellent hurdler; he finished 3rd in the Christmas Hurdle in 2012 behind Darlan and Raya Star. His last two hurdle starts (including a 9th at Cheltenham Festival in the Supreme Novices) were disappointing and he was swiftly put over fences. Two Grade 2 Novice wins (and easy ones at that) followed, plus a close 4th in the Arkle Trophy, but it’s his last 2 starts which have been the most impressive in his 2nd season of chasing. Victories in the Tingle Creek saw him improve for the tongue tie, looking much fitter and staying the 16 furlongs on Soft unlike his first start of the year. The Clarence House Chase would take much, much more; even taking Sprinter Sacre out, he had to beat Somersby again (OR of 162) and Twinlight (OR 165 coming off the back of a Grade 1 win in Ireland)

The Clarence House Chase

With the ground drying out to an acceptable Soft, the full 5 horses took to the start with Sprinter Sacre sent off 4/6 favourite. Sprinter started keenly, looking fresh and excited to be back on the racecourse. All horses jumped the early fences well, staying in a fairly consistent single file formation with Somersby leading.  Somersby hit the 7th hard but stayed a few lengths clear as the others remained grouped behind (aside from Grey Gold who can pretty much be written out the race). Dodging Bullets got in close to the 4th last and with McCoy increasing the pace from the front on Somersby and Sprinter Sacre travelling well looked to be in trouble with Noel Fehily having to get lower in the saddle to keep with the front 2. However, he picked up remarkably quickly, and was quickly back on the bit after breezing past Somersby. Sprinter Sacre remained on the bridle but a turn of pace from Dodging Bullets just before 2 out saw him take the lead. Barry Geraghty got lower in the saddle to push Sprinter Sacre into the lead but there was no real response and Dodging Bullets pulled out and then maintained a 3 length lead fairly comfortably.

The Verdict – Clarence House Chase Review

The bookies responded quickly, cutting Dodging Bullets into 5/1 3rd favourite from 12/1 and pushing Sprinter Sacre out from 2/1 to 3/1, while Sire De Grugy remained at 9/2 second favourite.

  1. Sprinter Sacre will improve for the run. He travelled well, as he always does, but there is no doubting he was tired at the end of the race. It was a much needed prep run and he was only beaten 3 lengths
  2. Dodging Bullets is better than the race showed. He jumped well but at 4-out and 3-out he put in 2 average leaps losing him ground. He’s still improving and has an impressive turn of pace, as he showed coming round the final bend. Once he hit the front he gave a strong impression he could have found more if he had needed to.
  3. Dodging Bullets was given a career best RPR of 174 for the win, while Sprinter Sacre was given 171. Given the way they ran all over both Somersby and Twinlight, I’d be tempted to say both of those are 2 or 3lb light.
  4. There’s no doubting Barry Geraghty will go easier on Sprinter Sacre than he might on other horses, “just in case”. What remains to be seen is how much S.S. will come on for this run; he was a good 15 lengths worse than his best form, although if Dodging Bullets doesn’t improve significantly for the run he’ll likely only need to find half of that to win at Cheltenham.
  5. Dodging Bullets’ two runs at Cheltenham so far have seen him finished 9th and 4th. It could be that the course doesn’t suit him, or it could be that he was just never as good a hurdler as he is a chaser and he needed the experience in the Arkle when facing more experienced horses. He’s a better horse now and it’ll be extremely interesting to see how he copes with Cheltenham this time round.
  6. The Queen Mother Champion Chase could well be the race of this year’s Cheltenham Festival if Sire De Grugy is at full fitness (he’ll more than likely start his season at the Game Spirit at the beginning of February)

Cheltenham Festial Champion Chase Ante Post

Queen Mother Champion Chase current odds:
Sprinter Sacre 11/4
Sire De Grugy 9/2
Dodging Bullets 5/1
Champagne Fever 8/1
Al Ferof 9/1
Uxizandre 16/1
25/1 Bar

This year’s  Queen Mothers’ Champion Chase is shaping up to be some race;. I’d expect at least two, if not all three, from Champagne Fever, Al Ferof and Uxizandre to tackle the 2m 5f Ryanair rather than the 2m Queen Mother Champion Chase. Sire De Grugy will run in the Game Spirit on the 7th of February to start his season; expect Soft ground, if not Heavy depending on the weather. A hip problem has ruled him out of the season so far and Gary Moore will be very keen to defend the race they won last year.

If Dodging Bullets copes with Cheltenham – and the way he has seen out his last 2 races over 2m and 2m 1f on Soft I think he will cope better this time than he has previously – taking EW on 5/1 can be seen as a very low risk bet for a progressive horse in full fitness against the two horses above him in the market who have both had their problems.

I’ll have a full Queen Mother Champion Chase antepost preview up within the next couple of days, but if you want a bet in the meantime PaddyPower have market leading odds on both Sprinter Sacre and Dodging Bullets (11/4 and 5/1 respectively) and are Non Runner No Bet already! They are also a daily must have betting account for their existing customer offers with money back specials on multiple sports every day, as well as Best Odds Guaranteed and Justice Payouts on horse racing! Join here and bet £5 for £20 FREE!

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