UN DE SCEAUX (3.35) is seeking a fabulous fourth victory in the Matchbook Clarence House Chase at Ascot and it promises to be a thrilling shoot-out with arch-rival Defi De Seuil.
Only a neck separated the pair in the Tingle Creek at Sandown and very testing ground will suit the Willie Mullins-trained challenger a bit more than Defi De Seuil. It is a pity last year’s star turn Altior is absent but racegoers won’t be short-changed if this develops into the expected head-to-head, with Defi De Seuil’s customary late charge possibly diluted following heavy rain in the build-up. Janika is equipped with a tongue-tie for the first time and should be handy.
MAGIC OF LIGHT (1.50) bids to repeat last year’s success in the Bet365 Mares’ Hurdle, a Grade 2 contest over three miles. Jessica Harrington’s mare is 6lb higher this time round but looked as good as ever when scoring over fences at Newbury last month. Magic Of Light, runner-up to Tiger Roll in the Grand National, faces a serious rival in Papagana, third to The Worlds End and strong-traveller L’Ami Serge over course and distance before Christmas.
Ballymoy also attempts an action replay after landing last year’s Matchbook Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle. Nigel Twiston-Davies sent him chasing without success in the early part of the season and Ballymoy should go close back over the smaller obstacles. SONG FOR SOMEONE (2.25) stuck on well in third behind Mack The Man and Protektorat at Sandown in early December and should be suited by this extra yardage. James Nixon takes 5lb off his back. It will be interesting to see what the market makes of three-time French winner Pic D’orhy on debut for Paul Nicholls, while Bold Plan was strong at the finish when reeling in Whoshotthesheriff at Haydock.
The track will be riding very testing at Haydock. Sue Smith has won two of the last four renewals of the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase and she relies on Vintage Cloud. The ten-year-old has been slow to come to hand this season but would be a threat if his old dash is re-kindled. MIDNIGHT TUNE (2.40) has had a low-key season, mopping up novice chases at Uttoxeter and Exeter with ease. Anthony Honeyball’s mare ploughed through the mud to beat useful If You Say Run on heavy ground at Sandown as a novice hurdler and might take some catching off a low weight.
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