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Un De Sceaux team relishing Defi Du Seuil rematch but Altior skips Ascot date

Mon 13 Jan 2020

Un De Sceaux’s connections are looking forward to their next clash with Defi Du Seuil in the Matchbook Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

While Willie Mullins’ veteran came off second best behind Defi Du Seuil in the Tingle Creek at Sandown last month, there was only a neck in it at the line – and with plenty of rain around this week, conditions could be even more in his favour on Saturday.

Should he win, Un De Sceaux – who is already the most successful horse in the Grade One race’s history – will be registering a fourth triumph.

“He’s got that ability to tear the heart of a horse – especially when the ground is desperate,” said Colm O’Connell, son of owner Edward O’Connell.

The Verdict: Our experts look back at a "cracking renewal" of the Tingle Creek

“It’s a small field, but you don’t need many to make a great race – we’ve seen that plenty of times.

“If Ascot gets the rain that is forecast, though, I can’t see why you’d want to take on Un De Sceaux – he has destroyed horses on soft and heavy.

“It looks like we’ve got a rematch with Defi Du Seuil – and we’re really looking forward to it, because it is at a racecourse he likes, and there wasn’t much in it at Sandown. We were coming back at the line, and this is almost a furlong and a half further.

“If Defi Du Seuil beats us again, we’ll take it – but there’s no point being in a horsebox, wondering what might have happened. I think the public wants to see the rematch.”

Defi Du Seuil (far side) joins Un De Sceaux at the last in the Tingle Creek
Defi Du Seuil (far side) joins Un De Sceaux at the last in the Tingle Creek

Not many horses are still capable of mixing it at the highest level when they turn 12 – but Un De Sceaux could be an exception, given how well he ran just a month ago.

“What he proved at Sandown, while he might be officially a year older since then, is that he still loves it – and there’s no sign of showing his age,” said O’Connell.

“I don’t think anyone at Willie’s can understand him – they are scratching their heads over him. ‘How can a horse at 12 keep doing what he does?’

“You’d have to admire the (Philip) Hobbs team – because if they win in a grueller (with Defi Du Seuil), what are they left with, and if they lose a grueller where do you go? Either way, he is going to have to go flat out against an absolute nut-job of a horse!”

Altior was not among the five confirmations, with Nicky Henderson announcing on Monday that the dual champion chaser will instead wait for the Game Spirit at Newbury next month.

 Altior will not run at Ascot on Saturday (Focusonracing)
Altior will not run at Ascot on Saturday (Focusonracing)

Henderson is likely to be represented instead by Janika, who was fourth in the Tingle Creek and subsequently filled the same position in the Relkeel Hurdle.

Paul Nicholls may run Capeland, who could only finish fourth to Bun Doran when sent off favourite at Kempton over Christmas.

Dan Skelton’s Marracudja got back to winning ways last time out in the Castleford Chase, but looks up against it in this class.

There were only eight original entries for the Grade One, with Magic Saint and Waiting Patiently ruled out before Monday’s confirmation stage.

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