THE rematch race between Un De Sceaux and Defi Du Deuil in tomorrow’s Clarence House Chase has been a much debated and much anticipated clash.
My heart says the former. My head says the latter.
I could sink my teeth into the obvious pros and cons, but I’d much rather sink my teeth into something even more juicy!
The Goffs Thyestes Chase is as prestigious a prize as it is of monetary value. One of the last remaining midweek spectacles, this wonderful meeting takes pride of place at Gowran Park next Thursday.
Won by my grandfather Paddy with Junes Friend back in 1981 and by my dad Jimmy with Whinstone Boy in 2010, the Thyestes Chase is much more than a race — it’s just the latest chapter in what is a history book deep in racing folklore.
This is a race that can guide us towards Gold Cup contenders as with On His Own in 2014 and Djakadam in 2015, not to mention Aintree Grand National prospects as we saw with Hedgehunter (2004) and Numbersixvalverde (2005).
The Thyestes Chase is a test of jumping and staying power, but similar to the Galway Plate, this no longer just a handicap.
Unlike the times of Junes Friend and Whinstone Boy, the Thyestes Chase is now a mini Gold Cup.
Contested by genuine Grade 1 performers, the lowest rated horse to line up in last season’s renewal was running off 137 - Whinstone Boy was rated 119!
These major handicaps pose as a fair barometer of how competitive racing has become in Ireland.
As the average rating for these handicaps rise, it acts as an illustration for the quality of animal stabled across the country and how the standard has risen dramatically in recent years.
There was a time when a well handicapped horse would plunder a race like the Thyestes Chase.
Today, you need a well handicapped graded horse to have a chance against the best in the business.
With that in mind, let’s try to find the winner!
Local trainer Liam Burke saddles heavyweight titan and recent Limerick winner Sumos Novios.
Burke won this race in 2016 with mud-lover My Murphy and this horse isn’t dissimilar in preferences.
However, no 12-year-old has won this race since Bob Treacy back in 2001 under John Cullen and while I hope Sumos Novios runs a huge race for his owner/trainer, it might pay to side with youth.
Ted Walsh could be represented by last season’s Kim Muir Chase winner Any Second Now who appeared to be travelling well in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown before being brought down at the last fence in the back straight.
Still only an eight-year-old, this horse has class and thoroughly deserves his rating of 150.
While he is near top of the weights, he was sent off favourite for the Irish Grand National last spring on the very same mark so were he to line up, he’s definitely on my short list.
As always with staying chases, one must always assess the challenge of a certain Gordon Elliott — not just the numbers, but the quality of his soldiers.
Borice was a facile winner of the Galway Plate in August on good ground where he accounted for Black Corton off a mark of 136.
If he lines up next week, he will carry 10lbs more and while he did disappoint in the Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury, I wouldn’t completely discount him just yet.
He has decent form on very soft ground in his native France and has had a wind operation since the summer. He could be a class horse lurking under the radar.
Our own Castlebrook remains a possibility for the race and while he would carry Whinstone Boy on his back, this could be a year too soon for him.
With only three chase runs to his name, Castlebrook would be the least experienced horse in the race were he to take his chance, but conditions are likely to suit.
The handicapper allotted him a maiden mark of 143 which seems fair, but one could only be hopeful rather than confident.
Time will tell and he has a few more tests to pass before any decision is made, but the Thyestes Chase is a special race and one worthy of the utmost respect.
That said, there’s no point in lining up in a race this competitive unless you are 110%. This race will eat you up and spit you out. The Thyestes Chase is always a battle but always a war worth winning.