Ascot Clarence House Chase Day: Race List & Meeting Info

The jumps season certainly finds its stride during the festive period and there's no sign of the pace slacking off throughout January. Towards the middle of the month Haydock has its own attractions – with a couple of Cheltenham Trials being of particular interest – but one the best cards as we continue into the new year comes here at Ascot.

The day's central focus is the Clarence House Chase, a race famously won three times in a row by one of the real stars of recent times in Willie Mullins' Un De Sceaux. There’s plenty more on offer besides the feature though with a valuable handicap chase and mares' hurdle amongst others.

 

Clarence House Chase Day

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Ascot Juvenile Hurdle Class 3 1m7½f £12,200 4 Years Old
Amateur Riders Handicap Chase Class 3 3m £16,800 5 Years Old +
bet365 Mares' Hurdle (The Warfield) Grade 2 2m7½f £50,000 4 Year Old + Mares
Holloway's Handicap Hurdle Grade 3 2m3½f £50,000 4 Years Old +
bet365 Handicap Chase Class 2 2m5f £75,000 5 Years Old +
Clarence House Chase Grade 1 2m1f £150,000 5 Years Old +
British EBF Novices' Hurdle Class 3 2m5½f £10,800 4-7 Years Old

Ascot Juvenile Hurdle

Class 3, 1m7½f

This juvenile hurdle race is limited to horses aged four. It’s a Class 3 Qualifier that takes place over one mile, seven furlongs and one hundred and fifty-two yards, featuring eight hurdles during its running. The prize money sits at around £7,000 and when the Going is Soft you can expect the race to last about four minutes, give or take. The 2020 running took place in association with the IJF Ambassador Programme.

Amateur Riders Handicap Chase

Class 3, 3m

Run in association with Matchbook in 2020, this race is open to amateur riders only. The handicap chase is for horses with a rating of between 0 and 135 that are aged five and over. A Class 3 chase with prize money of close to £10,000, it is run over two miles, seven furlongs and one hundred and eighty yards. The horses will need to get over twenty fences if they hope to be in with a chance of winning.

bet365 Mares' Hurdle (The Warfield)

Grade 2, 2m7½f

There aren’t many races limited to fillies and mares quite as exciting as the Grade 2 Mares’ Hurdle. It is run right-handed over two miles, seven furlongs and one hundred and eighteen yards and during its running there are eleven hurdles that the horses will need to get over.

The race was created in 2008 and has enjoyed a number of different names since then thanks to sponsorship. It has been known as the Oilexco Mares' Only Hurdle, the Warfield Mares’ Hurdle and the 1942 Was A Vintage Year Mares’ Hurdle over the years, with the last of those being the most intriguing.

At the time of writing no horse has won it twice, though Ruby Wash has done as a jockey and Noel Fehily has won it three times. Two of those wins came on horses trained by Harry Fry, making him the race’s most successful trainer based on past results.

If you’re interested to know what the best horses do next then you might be intrigued to know that Magic of Light won this race in 2019 before going on to come second in that season’s Grand National. Might this race give an indication of the next mare to win the Aintree race, given it’s such a rare occurrence?

Holloway's Handicap Hurdle

Grade 3, 2m3½f

The final race worth drawing your attention to is the Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle, which was also inaugurated in 2008. Run over two miles, three furlongs and fifty-eight yards, the race is open to horses aged four and up. There are ten hurdles that the competitors will need to get over before they reach the final stretch.

The first two races were won by Lough Derg, though none of the others since have been won by the same horse consecutively. Tom Scudamore was on the back of Lough Derg, given him the jump on other jockeys in terms of success, whilst David Pipe was the winning trainer on both occasions. Pipe was also the trainer of Mamlook, who won the race in 2010.

bet365 Handicap Chase

Class 2, 2m5f

Sponsored by bet365 at the time of writing, the handicap chase is run over two miles, five furlongs and eight yards. When the Going is Soft it will take the horses about five and a half minutes to make their way around the course, taking on seventeen fences as they do so. It’s a Class 2 event with prize money in excess of £46,000. Participating horses much be aged five or over in order to take part in the race.

Clarence House Chase

Grade 1, 2m1f

First run in 1989, the Clarence House Chase was supposed to be inaugurated in 1987 but wasn’t because of a bad frost that had settled on the Ascot course that year. It was then supposed to get its debut the following year but organisers must have wondered if it is was cursed when a heavy fog descended on the racecourse.

When the race was created it was a handicap offering that was run over two miles. When Ascot was closed in 2005 and 2006 because the course was being renovated the race was run firstly at Cheltenham Racecourse and then at Sandown Park, with no race in 2007. That was the year that it earned its Grade 1 status, however, as well as being extended by a furlong and no longer being run as a handicap.

As a result, the modern race is run over two miles and one hundred and sixty-seven yards, with thirteen fences for the horses to jump during the course of it. It’s open to horses aged five and over.

The race is registered as the Clarence House Chase but was sponsored by the bookmaker Victor Chandler, now known as BetVictor, from its inauguration until 2013 and was known by a sponsored title. It went back to being known by its registered title from 2014, at which point the French food services company Sodexo took over sponsorship duties. Various sponsors have taken on the role since, with the betting exchange Matchbook being the company that had the honour in 2019.

This is a good race to watch if you’re looking for some ideas about the horses that might do well in the Queen Mother Champion Chase during the Cheltenham Festival. Viking Flagship, Master Minded and Altior are all examples of horses that have won both events in the same season, so if a horse looks as though it’s coped ok with this then it might be worth making a note of and tracking between the race and the Festival in March.

In terms of previous winners, Master Minded is one horse that has won it twice, though that wasn’t good enough to take the title of ‘best horse’ away from Un de Sceaux who won it three times consecutively between 2016 and 2018. Equally, none of Tony McCoy or Richard Dunwoody’s two wins as jockey nor Mick Fitzgerald’s three wins are enough to put them in the record books thanks to Ruby Walsh’s four wins between 2009 and 2017.

The likes of David Nicholson, Jimmy FitzGerald and Willie Mullins have all been the trainer of the winner of this race more than once, but Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson are way out in front with five wins apiece. Henderson’s achievement might just pip Nicholls’ too, considering he did it with five different horses whereas Nicholls saw two of his wins come from Master Minded.

British EBF Novices' Hurdle

Class 3, 2m5½f

The final race of the day is the novices’ hurdle that is sponsored by Matchbook at the time of writing. It is run in association with the European Breeders’ Fund and is a Class 3 Qualifier race. Run over two miles, five furlongs and one hundred and forty-one yards, it’s for horses aged between four and seven years of age. There are ten hurdles that the competitors will need to jump and when the Going is Soft it takes about five minutes and forty-five seconds to complete the course.

 

About Clarence House Chase Day

Ascot Racecourse Grandstand
Photo © JohnArmagh

Ascot is home to some of the world’s most famous flat races, but it also hosts a good chunk of jump racing events and Clarence House Chase Day is the meeting that is used to kick-start the racecourse’s year of top-class racing, hosted as it is in January each year.

The standout race is, as you might well have guessed from the day’s name, the Clarence House Chase, which is a Grade 1 offering that has seen some of the sport’s best jumpers end the day as winners. It comes as part of a seven race program that also includes the Grade 3 Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle, so there’s plenty of racing away from the main event to keep you interested.