Connections ‘very hopeful’ for Sceaux
Last year's winner Un De Sceaux is among eight horses left in the Berkshire Community Foundation Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
Un De Sceaux and Sire De Grugy battle it out in the Clarence House Chase 12 months ago.
The only withdrawal at the five-day confirmation stage was Nicky Henderson's exciting novice Altior, but a small but select field is promised for the Grade One over an extended two miles.
Un De Sceaux, trained by Willie Mullins, defeated Sire De Grugy in this race 12 months ago and again had that same rival back in second place in the Tingle Creek at Sandown last month.
While there is only a possible maximum field of eight, Colm O'Connell, son of owner Edward, is expecting a helter-skelter race featuring a handful of likely front-runners.
"When you look at Ar Mad, Special Tiara and Royal Regatta, without knowing what our tactics will be, that looks like a red-hot pace," said O'Connell.
"Ascot suits our lad, though, when he won this last year it was just about his most impressive performance.
"He doesn't have to make the running, we saw that in the Tingle Creek, and I think the big thing we have that the others don't is Ruby Walsh.
"He's just always in the right place, he knows where to be and can change plans at the drop of a hat. I was so glad when he won the Tingle Creek, more so than for any of his other races.
"Last February he was 4/6 to win a Queen Mother. Four months later people were saying he was past his best, when, in reality, he wasn't. He just wasn't as good as Sprinter Sacre, but who was?
"I'm very hopeful he'll be going there but it looks a hard race. I certainly won't be backing him at 4/5, anyway."
Gary Moore could run two in the race but will make a decision over whether Sire De Grugy, the winner in 2014, joins stablemate Ar Mad on Tuesday.
There is a second Irish-trained entry in the Henry de Bromhead-trained Special Tiara, winner of the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas.
Dodging Bullets, successful in this race in 2015, represents Paul Nicholls, while the list is filled by Eastlake, Royal Regatta and Top Gamble.
The new sponsor of the race marks the beginning of a three-year partnership with the Berkshire Community Foundation, which will will see Ascot supplement its existing charitable efforts – headlined recently by raising over £750,000 for The Prince's Countryside Fund over the last two years – with a specific focus on children and young people in the Berkshire area.
The Berkshire Community Foundation has been at the forefront of local charitable giving for the last 30 years and aims to strengthen communities, tackle disadvantage and transform lives by connecting people who care with the causes that matter in their local community.
Guy Henderson, Chief Executive at Ascot, added: "We are delighted to be working with the Berkshire Community Foundation and supporting the positive work they do for those in need within Berkshire.
"Our focus for 2017 will be children and young people. Our aim is to make a difference in our home county."