The Matchbook Clarence House Chase Raceday opens the year at Ascot and the headline act is an eagerly anticipated rematch between Un De Sceaux and Defi Du Seuil in the Grade 1 Matchbook Clarence House Chase.
Just a neck separated the pair as they fought out the finish in the Tingle Creek at Sandown, with Philip Hobbs’ Defi Du Seuil coming out on top. The Un De Sceaux team are confident of reversing the form as their evergreen 12-year-old remains at the top of his game and bids for an unprecedented fourth win in the race on testing ground that is sure to suit.
Defi Du Seuil is the up-and-coming star though with two Cheltenham Festival wins to his name and victory here would advance his claims to dethrone Altior at the top of the two mile chase division ahead of a meeting in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Elsewhere on the card, Magic Of Light will attempt to become the first dual winner of the Grade 2 bet365 Mares’ Hurdle (Registered as the Warfield Mares’ Hurdle) following her win last year. After that success Jessica Harrington’s nine-year-old went on to finish second in the Grand National behind Tiger Roll and she is likely to have the Aintree feature in her sights once again this year.
She’ll face tough opposition here first from the Oliver Sherwood-trained Papagana, third in the Grade 1 Marsh Hurdle at Ascot before Christmas, while Culture De Sivola is also respected.
The opening Ascot IJF Ambassador Programme Juvenile Hurdle features a potential star of the future as Goshen, antepost favourite for the Triumph Hurdle, runs for the Gary Moore team. He has won his first two starts over hurdles by a combined 57 lengths and will take all the beating.
Elsewhere a classy looking renewal of the Grade 3 Matchbook Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle includes one of last year’s top novice hurdlers, Thomas Darby, as well as 2019 winner Ballymoy, the exciting Pic D’Orhy and Ascot favourite Jolly’s Cracked It. The bet365 Handicap Chase looks likely to be the main betting race of the afternoon and it will be typically competitive with Happy Diva, Espoir De Guye and Kildisart likely to be among the favourites for the £75,000 race.
Away from Ascot the Champion Hurdle trial, now named after The New One, is run at Haydock on a card that also includes the Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle, a key trial for the Supreme, and the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase, which often throws up a Grand National contender or two.