Sodexho Clarence House Chase
|Grade 1, Ascot
2m 110y, Class 1
|Saturday 18th January 2014|
1 Sire De Grugy 5/4F
2 Hidden Cyclone 4/1
3 Kauto Stone 16/1
7 ran Distances: 11l, 15l, 3¼l
TIME 4m 19.10s (slow by 15.10s)
Trainer Gary Moore now has no alternative but to aim Sire De Grugy for Cheltenham after the chestnut raised his standard yet again in the Sodexo Clarence House Chase at Ascot.
Whether or not he is merely the two-mile king in absentia, with Sprinter Sacre still recovering after his episode in their short-lived meeting at Kempton over Christmas, is set be determined in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on March 12.
Sire De Grugy managed a reasonable impression of Sprinter Sacre in collecting his second Grade One of the season, with jockey Jamie Moore admitting "he was having a laugh at them" approaching the final two fences as he sauntered past Hidden Cyclone and 11 lengths into the distance.
Aside from his potent cruising speed, what was most impressive about the 5-4 favourite this time was his jumping over some tricky fences in deep ground.
Those factors proved too great for market rival Somersby, who unseated Dominic Elsworth early on the final circuit to end hopes of an emotional victory for his connections.
The winning trainer explained in the past Cheltenham is not an ideal track for his horse and alternative events in France could be considered, but he said here: "He's got to go for it. I think he's an improving horse and I've got nearly two months to freshen him up.
"I'll give him a nice break for a couple of weeks then we'll bring him back purposely for the Champion Chase. He deserves to be in it.
"When he first came to us he was a very free horse. Jamie's done a great job and settled him now. He has a cross noseband on because he's quirky. We could probably do away with that now but we won't."
His jockey-son was asked if Sire De Grugy was the best he had ever ridden.
Moore said: "I rode Well Chief, he was very, very good. Sire De Grugy does look like him, as a chestnut with a big white face. I'm not sure he's as good as Well Chief yet but he's getting there.
"This is all about the horse - some of the jumps he put in were spectacular. Today he felt as good as he has ever felt. Sprinter Sacre is a great horse, but today was his most impressive performance. I'm not saying he'll beat the other horse, but he could do."
Irish raider Hidden Cyclone kept on for second and trainer Shark Hanlon said: "I think he was beaten by a very good horse. He'll be better going the other way and will more than likely go for the Queen Mother."
Later, the County Carlow handler said: "He's home and travelled back well. The winner could be exceptional, but I didn't think our horse jumped as well as he could've done. He was hanging the whole way and maybe he is better going the other way. He's also definitely better on better ground."
Hanlon added: "We'll give him a bit of time off and get him ready for Cheltenham.
"It will either be the Queen Mother or the Ryanair for him, but we've not decided which race yet."
Sodexo Clarence House Chase (Grade 1)
£105,000 added, 5yo plus, 2m 1f, Class 1
||Sire De Grugy
G L Moore
|J E Moore
|5 - 4
J J Hanlon
|Andrew J McNamara
|4 - 1
P F Nicholls
|16 - 1
H de Bromhead
|10 - 1
3 1/4 lengths
||Oiseau de Nuit
C L Tizzard
|28 - 1
|50 - 1
M R Channon
|11 - 4