Sceaux chasing House riches
View from connections ahead of Saturday's Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham.
Un De Sceaux would appreciate any rain
Connections of Un De Sceaux are praying for rain to give the Irish raider the best possible chance of claiming a second Cheltenham success in the rescheduled Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Clarence House Chase.
There were scenes of wild celebration from the O'Connell family and their army of supporters after Un De Sceaux claimed Arkle Trophy glory at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival.
The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old looked as though he could become the dominant force in the two-mile chasing division after a superb display in this event 12 months ago, but was no match for a resurgent Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, nor in the Celebration Chase at Sandown.
But with Sprinter Sacre retired, Un De Sceaux made a successful start to the current campaign in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in early December and is odds-on to follow up in a Grade One contest that was saved from last weekend's abandoned fixture at Ascot.
Part-owner Colm O'Connell said: "Any day you have a runner in Cheltenham you look forward to it, as they look after you so well there.
"It's not easy for the horse, having travelled over to Ascot last week. People don't realise how difficult it is.
"They get the lorry to the ferry, then spend four hours on the ferry, and then they're back on the road again. He's had to do it twice in a week.
"Willie says he has a great temperament and he's a great traveller, but a big credit to the team that look after him as well.
"I think there's a drop of rain forecast and that would help us. The perfect scenario would be for it to absolutely bucket down and it was so bad Simon Claisse (clerk of the course) nearly abandoned racing!
"He just seems to be able to go a gallop in bad ground that not many others can."
While Un De Sceaux made his name as a trailblazer, Ruby Walsh adopted more patient tactics at Sandown last month.
O'Connell is looking forward to seeing how the Clarence House plays out tactically.
"It's going to be a tricky race from a tactical point of view. Special Tiara wasn't going to run in Ascot, but he's there on Saturday and we know he likes to go forward," O'Connell added.
"Alan King's horse (Uxizandre) might be a bit fresh after a long time off, and he showed when he won the Ryanair a couple of years ago he can go from the front as well.
"We'll just leave it to Ruby, as we always do, and see what happens."
Un De Sceaux holds entries in the Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase at the Festival in March, and O'Connell does not expect any decision on which race he will contest, if any, until much nearer the time.
He said: "You wouldn't want to be making huge plans when you see what can happen overnight.
"If you'd told me at the start of the season Don Cossack would be out, Coneygree would be out, Annie Power would be out and Sprinter Sacre would be retired, I wouldn't have believed it.
"He's got the entries (at Cheltenham) and I'm sure Willie will run him in the race he feels give him the best opportunity."
Joining Un De Sceaux on the trip across the Irish Sea is Special Tiara, who was not in the original field at Ascot.
Henry de Bromhead's charge was last seen winning his second Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over the festive period.
"At the moment the ground is looking OK and he seems in great form," said De Bromhead.
"It's good to soft and they said they are forecast a bit of rain there on Friday night. The forecasts keeps changing a bit, but Simon (Claisse) thought they might get between five and 10 millimetres.
"If they got that it might go to soft, but he wasn't sure."
Uxizandre provided Sir Anthony McCoy with his final Cheltenham Festival winner in the 2015 Ryanair Chase before his retirement, but has not been seen since and trainer Alan King feels his charge will need the run.
"He obviously had a problem after Cheltenham and it's taken a long time to get him back," the trainer told Racing UK.
"We're very happy with him, but he's going to want a run.
"I just thought it was a good starting point. We didn't enter him in the original race at Ascot because he has to go left-handed, but when Ascot was abandoned and it was transferred it seemed the logical place to get him started.
"As long as he's all right on Sunday morning, we can plan from there."
Kerry Lee is anticipating a bold show from Top Gamble, who was third in a competitive handicap at this venue on New Year's Day.
Lee said: "We're quite happy with it being run at Cheltenham. He's ran really good races there the last twice, particularly last time.
"We have the utmost respect for the opposition, but at the same time Top Gamble is a dual Grade Two winner, so he is entitled to take his chance.
"He's a nine-year-old, so if we're ever going to have a go in race like the Clarence House, now is the time to do it."
Dodging Bullets won the Tingle Creek, this race and the Champion Chase two seasons ago.
The nine-year-old has not been in the same form since then, but is given the chance to regain his Clarence House crown by Paul Nicholls.
The Philip Hobbs-trained Royal Regatta and Eastlake from Jonjo O'Neill's stable complete the field.
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