Two of the favourites for the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival have been denied a warm-up battle.
The Clarence House Chase has been postponed after low temperatures froze the ground at Ascot Racecourse, and today’s inspection revealed that the track had no chance of thawing out prior to Saturday’s scheduled meeting.
The stacked racecard was headlined by the Grade 1 renewal, with Energumene and Edwardstone – both expected to figure prominently alongside the impressive Amarillo Sky.
Unfortunately we have had to abandon the Clarence House Chase Raceday on Saturday. pic.twitter.com/GLep3fHfpy
— Ascot Racecourse (@Ascot) January 19, 2023
Energumene and Edwardstone are the 8/11 and 11/4 ante post favourites for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March, but have now only ran once and twice respectively this season.
The former won comfortably in a low-key reappearance at Cork in December, while the latter followed an impressive Tingle Creek Chase victory by unseating jockey Tom Cannon in the Desert Orchid Chase on December 27.
They may yet get a chance to renew acquaintances if the Clarence House Chase is rescheduled. That has happened twice before in 2013 and 2017, when the original Ascot dates were cancelled following snow and frost, with Cheltenham taking on hosting duties later in January on both occasions.
And those renewals proved to be excellent markers. Sprinter Sacre won the 2013 Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham before winning the Champion Chase at the Festival, while 2017 Clarence House victor Un De Sceaux went on to prevail in the Ryanair Chase at the March extravaganza.
Could history repeat itself in 2023?
Although not confirmed, it has been suggested that the Clarence House Chase WILL be rescheduled to take place within the next couple of weeks.
The BHA ultimately decides on that, rather than Ascot themselves, and the Racing Post has reported that the regulatory body has already spoken to officials at Ascot in a bid to host the race soon.
Clerk of the course at Ascot, Chris Stickels, confirmed that the Clarence House Chase could once again be moved.
“When I had discussions with them [the BHA], they were looking at whether they would reschedule it, but because it’s a Pattern race it’s down to them to get those wheels in motion,” he said.
“We’re happy for them to stage it somewhere else if they want to, in the past it’s gone to Cheltenham and it’s just a shame we weren’t able to stage it this weekend.”
A new date would require Energumene’s connections to ship him over from Ireland, and therefore a planned runout in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown on February 5 may prove more tempting.
However, Patrick Mullins has suggested that the horse trained by his father Willie would still make the trip over.
“If it is lost [at Ascot], we hope it is rescheduled and the plan would still be to go over. It fits in well with his programme,” the Irishman has said.
According to Timeform, Energumene is the highest-rated two-mile chaser at 180, with Edwardstone (172) and other potential Champion Chase foe Blue Lord (171) and Shishkin (170) with work to do to catch him.