Many will see Saturday’s Clarence House Chase as a formality with Willie Mullins Arkle winner and Champion Chase favourite Un De Sceaux set to take in the contest, and for good reason.
To date the only thing that has beaten him has been himself, with the eight-year-old coming home in front everytime he has completed a race.
But at 8/13 he remains at fairly restrictive odds for the Ascot contest, despite his quality.
It may well be a case of if he gets round, he wins, but it looks far from a formality that Mullins will be enjoying a winner this side of the Irish Sea for a second successive Saturday.
Here are five things that may just hinder the jolly’s quest for victory.
A tendency to tip-up
The obvious place to start would be Un De Sceaux’s jumping. While he can sometimes look spectacular, the fact that he has fallen in a third of his chase starts cannot be ignored.
And with both of those tumbles coming when under next to no pressure, one has to wonder whether he would be more susceptible if he had company at a fence.
Competition for the lead
The aforementioned test of his jumping could well come into play should Mullins’ charge find himself with company out in front.
His cruising speed has seen him afforded an easy lead in his previous starts but with another proven front-runner Special Tiara in the field, he might not have it all his own way.
Throw in that Traffic Fluide, hailing from the same stable as Un De Sceaux’s main rival Sire De Grugy, is entered and could engage in a tussle for the early advantage, tactics could well come into play.
What’s he like in a battle?
Again, following on from the previous issue, should any of his competitors have the pace to go with him in the early stages, we don’t know for sure what the son of Denham Red saves in reserve for a battle.
It could be that he ekes out more to his jockey’s urgings, but we are certainly taking it on trust that he’s not just a strong traveller that finds nothing under pressure.
Things could get interesting if Ruby Walsh is forced to go for his whip.
His big day remains seven weeks away
If the favourite is successful in the manner that his odds suggest there is every reason to believe that he will be even better at the Festival.
Willie Mullins’ horses have in the past been known to be at their absolute peak come the Cheltenham showpiece. It might be that if you are thinking of taking on Un De Sceaux at any point, Ascot will be the place to do it.
A previous winner ‘in the form of his life’
It’s worth noting that if the hot-pot fails to win it doesn’t necessarily mean that he underperformed, for we are likely to have a former Champion Chaser and previous winner of the contest in the race.
Sire De Grugy has looked somewhat back to his best in his last two runs, firstly winning the Tingle Creek Chase, before a sticky jump at the last was potentially all that stopped him beating Sprinter Sacre at Kempton.
With his favoured soft ground on the cards at Ascot, a big run could well be in store from the popular chestnut chaser.
Of course, Un De Sceaux has looked excellent for the most part over fences, and will certainly take all the beating at both Ascot and in two months time at Cheltenham, but at the prices there is more than one reason to err on the side of caution when it comes to getting stuck into Willie Mullins’ favourite.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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