The Royal Salute Whisky Clarence House Steeple Chase, a Grade One over 2 miles for the fastest chasers in Europe, is the feature on Saturday's card.
The race is being run for a record £150,000 as part of the increases to our prize money this year, totalling some £1.2 million, as announced earlier in the week.
Usually, the race proves a guide for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham over the same trip. However, this is something of an unusual renewal as the top two in the Champion market (Altior and Douvan) are side-lined and the favourite for today’s race, Un De Sceaux, is as likely to run in the two-and-a-half mile Ryanair Chase at the Festival (which he won last year) as the Champion.
Add to that the quandary that the second favourite, Brain Power, is a novice who is Arkle Chase bound, and we have a fascinating contest in prospect.
Un De Sceaux, who travelled over from Ireland on Thursday, is an undisputed star of the jumps circuit having won the Arkle as a novice, finished second in a Champion Chase and won a Ryanair. Most relevant to tomorrow, he has won the Clarence House twice (last year when relocated to Cheltenham) and he is seeking to make a bit of history by winning the race for an unprecedented third time.
Brain Power looked set for second when unseating at the last at Sandown last time but that was in a Grade One novices’ race and he was still in the process of running a fine race when he came down. He has been extremely well backed all week against the favourite.
The three that make up the field are all good horses in their own right and San Benedeto has gone particularly well here in the past, but it looks likely that the finish will concern the front two in the market.
The Grade 3 Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle is always a competitive race and looks a typically open affair with 14 runners, although Jenkins is likely to be all the rage having finally got it together at Kempton last week. His trainer, Nicky Henderson, who also saddles Brain Power in the feature, is in a tremendous run of form and rarely goes away from Ascot without a winner.
The third Graded race tomorrow (akin to Group races on the Flat) is the OLBG.com Mare’s Hurdle Race – a Grade Two – where Midnight Tune looks to complete a hat-trick following her win at Kempton.