Defi Du Seuil delivered a masterful performance to win a scintillating renewal of the Grade 1 Matchbook Clarence House Steeple Chase at Ascot on Saturday 18th January.
Un De Sceaux, winner of the prestigious prize three times previously, showed all his usual enthusiasm as he led the field from the off. Defi Du Seuil tracked him throughout however, ranging up alongside the gallant twelve-year-old turning for home and jumping clear two out with a breathtaking turn of foot, to stride home by two and three-quarter lengths. Defi Du Seuil was subsequently cut to a general 2-1 favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase off the back of a truly emphatic display under Barry Geraghty, which saw the form of his Tingle Creek victory over Un De Sceaux well and truly confirmed.
In the opener, Gary Moore’s exciting four-year-old Goshen cemented his claims for the Triumph Hurdle when running away with The Ascot IJF Ambassador Programme Juvenile Hurdle. The long odds-on favourite raced prominently throughout, asserting himself in the latter stages and drawing comfortably clear to take his unbeaten run over hurdles to three in impressive fashion.
The Matchbook Amateur Riders’ Handicap Steeple Chase saw 20-1 outsider Townshend win easily under a confident ride by Jamie Neild, the jockey’s first win under rules and the horse’s first appearance on a racecourse after a 271-day absence.
In the Grade 2 Bet365 Mares’ Hurdle (Registered as The Warfield), the likeable Jessica Harrington-trained Magic Of Light put up a decisive performance to win under Robbie Power. Runner-up to Tiger Roll in the 2019 Grand National, the mare produced a foot perfect display under top weight, staying on strongly to win the race for a second consecutive year.
A competitive renewal of the Grade 3 Matchbook Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle saw Thomas Darby defy top weight to score under champion jockey Richard Johnson. The winner, second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, was reverting to hurdles having twice finished a beaten favourite over fences in November, and dug deep to hold off a tenacious challenge by runner-up Song For Someone.
The Bet365 Handicap Steeple Chase delivered a thrilling finish, with four jumping the last in contention before Domain De L’Isle wore down the extremely game Bennys King for his third consecutive victory over fences for trainer Sean Curran. Finally in the last, the Nicky Henderson-trained Falco Blitz justified favouritism with an impressive win in The Matchbook British EBF ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle under Jeremiah McGrath.