Rather predictably, as of last night we learnt that Sire De Grugy will not be heading to Ascot on Saturday for another crack at the Grade One Clarence House. This leaves Gary Moores’ challenge in the hands of the undeniably exciting ‘replacement’ as often labelled, Ar Mad. But, we cannot blame Moore for this decision; he has already raced these two against one another in the Tingle Creek and Sire De Grugy took a nasty tumble slash unseat at Kempton only a couple of weeks back. I’m a huge fan of Moore as a trainer and he is one of the most forthright and honest trainers you’ll come across over both codes. It can’t be seen as a case of avoiding one another as we see so often with the biggest yards and as we will see at the Festival with Annie Power and Faugheen. Anyway, onto the race…
Un De Sceaux has deservedly been made the odds-on favourite, and currently looks a more generous price than he will go off at come Saturday afternoon. Willie Mullin’s 9YO is likely to get testing ground on Saturday which further suits and the track at Ascot should see a better run than what we witnessed at Sandown over the last few fences. He was a comfy winner of this race last season and there is very little more in the way of opposition than what he faced that afternoon. Ar Mad is the new kid on the block in the two mile chasing scene – albeit as a 7YO – but is lightly raced and yet to fully expose himself out of novice company. He ran a mighty front running blast for much of the Tingle and had Un De Sceaux and Sire De Grugy worried for much of the race in early December. He jumps each fence as if it could be his last and will take the field a long at a serious pace; a few could struggle to keep him in their sights. There was talk post-Sandown of Ar Mad coming back at the front two in the closing stages and that if he can jump cleaner next time he could get very close to a big scalp.
Although true to an extent, his style of jumping and racing will always bring with it a couple of hairy moments and you’d be making a bold claim that his jumping efficiency will increase far enough in such a short period. He had come back from a lengthy absence last run, but so had Un De Sceaux and both should have come on for it. Ar Mad will ensure a spectacle whatever happens, but at 2/1 isn’t even a price to look at considering the facts and form needed to turn the result around. A couple of points further out and yes, you’d have a cracking bet. But, at 2s, it leaves us a race to watch and admire.
The other five runners are very much up against it and the each way angle is now rather obsolete after SDG’s withdrawal leaves seven to go. However, with Ar Mad going hell for leather up front the race could be thrown wide open (notice the key word, ‘could’). Royal Regatta looks the best EW bet in that case, and with odds of 16/1 available, if wanting a bet the Philip Hobbs horse would be our advised route. His run at Ascot last time was strong and the form has worked out well enough. The only concern would be the ground and anything too soft could see an end to any outside shot of his. Special Tiara has been banded around as being overpriced, but hasn’t looked anything like the horse of old. The Irish horse is a regular over in England, but just got home against Sir Valentino at Kempton and in a race paying out on the top two only, there’s no need to take a romantic bet with this one.
In summary, it will not be the best betting heat you’ll see on Saturday, but it is one of the best races we have seen for a few weeks and UDS and Ar Mad can hopefully give ITV a thriller on their return to Ascot. The Tingle was arguably the race of the season thus far and Ar Mad only knows how to race one way, which will result in a similar affair tactically as we saw at Sandown. I just hope that one of the outsiders can get up and get involved in the closing stages, almost taking the place of SDG. Lastly, as good as a race we have in prospect; lets hope that this time next year we are talking about a Douvan vs. Altior showdown and that we fill these G1s consistently with the best horses in training.