Sire De Grugy to hold court again during exile of the two-mile king
Friday 17 January 2014
The heart may want Somersby to win Saturday's Clarence House Chase at Ascot as a timely tribute to Terry Biddlecombe, who died two weekends ago. But the head says Sire De Grugy.
Biddlecombe, celebrated as much for his adventures off the course as on it, is best remembered professionally as a champion jumps jockey, but he also played a huge role helping his wife, Henrietta Knight, win a Champion Chase and a King George VI with Edredon Bleu and three Cheltenham Gold Cups with Best Mate.
Somersby is not quite of that calibre, but has competed with distinction at a high level, notably when winning the afternoon's corresponding race two years ago. That was, however, probably his peak performance; he has not run to within 7lb of it in seven subsequent outings.
Sire De Grugy's star, on the other hand, is rising: five wins from his last six starts, including a four-length victory over Somersby in the Tingle Creek at Sandown last month. The Irish-trained Hidden Cyclone's form does not quite match up, but he will revel in the deep ground.
Everybody is waiting for the return of the king and, whatever happens this afternoon, Sire De Grugy (3.35, Ascot) will continue to be regarded as minor royalty until or unless he dethrones Sprinter Sacre, currently recovering from a heart irregularity, in fair battle.
Un Temps Pour Tout, bought for £480,000 by David Pipe, the second-highest price paid for a jumper at auction, makes his British debut in the Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle at Haydock. A smart operator in France, Un Temps Pour Tout (2.05, Haydock) should pass this relatively gentle test before going on to much better things.
Un Temps Pour Tout was beaten seven lengths by Ptit Zig on his final start in France and that winner went on to finish a most creditable runner-up in the Ladbroke at Ascot under top weight.
Paul Nicholls is adamant Ptit Zig (2.40 Haydock) is a star in the making and, although he might not have the speed to live with the best in the Champion Hurdle, Haydock's heavy ground may help him to see off Melodic Rendezvous in the trial.
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again with the same bad outcome, but I am prepared to give Merry King (3.15 Haydock) yet another chance in the Peter Marsh Chase. Jonjo O'Neill's seven-year-old ran OK in both the Hennessy and the Welsh National, but not as well as I expected. He is, however, tried in a visor for the first time and the handicapper has given him a helping hand.
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