O'Connell targets historic hat-trick at Ascot

Connections of Un De Sceaux are hoping he can make their dreams come true by claiming a record-breaking third success in the Royal Salute Whisky Clarence House Chase at Ascot today.

Un De Sceaux.
Un De Sceaux.

The Willie Mullins-trained 10-year-old will face four rivals in his quest to land an eighth Grade One of his career and continue his recent domination of the two-mile-one contest, which was rerouted to Cheltenham 12 months ago.

Despite being the oldest runner in the field, Un De Sceaux showed he is still performing at the peak of powers when he easily cast aside his rivals on his seasonal return in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork in December.

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Part-owner Colm O’Connell said: “It’s a dream for us to be going for a third Clarence House.

“I know Cheltenham is Cheltenham, and it is a fantastic festival, but at the start of the season our main aim was to win this race three times. Master Minded managed two, but no one has done three.

“It’s history-book stuff, like Kauto Star winning five King Georges. It’s the sort of record which might stay for a while.

“If we’re lucky enough to win it and he comes home safe, for us that will be up there with winning anything at Cheltenham.”

He added: “I often think in these races ratings can go out of the window. It might look like he has 20lb in hand, but it never works out like that. In small fields it becomes tactical.

“He’s got a mind of his own, that’s for sure. Ruby (Walsh) always tells whoever else rides him to just try and sit still – you might think you’re in control but you’re not!

“It might be a small field, but at this time of year people are less inclined to take a risk so close to Cheltenham. They might not want to have a grueller against Un De Sceaux, so you can understand it.”

Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins said: “It looks a great opportunity for him to complete the hat-trick in the race.

“His comeback at Cork earlier in the season showed he looked as good as ever under David Mullins.

“He is an amazing horse and his love for the game is unbelievable. Every morning he is out there whizzing around the gallops and he never gets tired of galloping and jumping. He should have his favoured ground and he loves the track.

“I don’t think 10-year-olds have a great record in the race, but he is a horse that a lot of statistics don’t apply to. We are looking forward to seeing how he gets on.”

Nicky Henderson is banking on a strong pace, which is likely to be set by Un De Sceaux, playing into the hands of exciting novice Brain Power.

After making a winning start over fences at Kempton, the seven-year-old was a late casualty on his most recent outing in a Grade One at Sandown in December.

The Seven Barrows handler said: “I want a race for the horse where they are going to go a pace for him.

“There are no surprises here as you will get a good pace from Un De Sceaux.

“There are no other two-mile chases around for him where he will get that and where he will get a lead.

“I don’t want to make the running with him as he needs to learn how to settle better. It is an unlike-Henderson thing to do, but there is a lot of prize-money on offer for second and third and it is better than going to a novice chase at Leicester.

“He schooled on Thursday morning and he is all done and ready to go. Michael Buckley (owner) agreed with me it is time to let Nico (de Boinville) take the ride as he has done a lot of schooling on him and it is the sensible thing to do.”

While Speredek may have plenty to find on official figures, his trainer Nigel Hawke feels the improving seven-year-old has plenty in his favour.

Hawke said: “He loves soft ground, he likes the track and he’s in form so he ticks a lot of the boxes.”

Ramses De Teillee regained winning ways over fences with a clear-cut success in the Daily Racing Specials At 188Bet Novices’ Chase at Chepstow.

David Pipe’s six-year-old had got off the mark over the course and distance at the first time of asking, before finding the 
useful Get On the Yager too 
strong at Fontwell, form boosted since.

The 11-8 favourite proved too good for his three rivals as he powered clear from three out to score by seven lengths from Rons Dream and give Tom Scudamore his 50th winner of the season on his only ride of the day.