Patrick Mullins is backing Energumene to go one better than last year as he seeks LK Bennett Clarence House Chase glory at Ascot on Saturday, writes Tom Masters.
It is set to be a straight shoot-out between one of Willie Mullins’ stable stars and Alan King’s Edwardstone, who also arrives in form having won the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.
Energumene finished second behind Shishkin in an all-time classic last year, his only defeat over fences in nine outings to date.
He earned revenge by easing to victory in the Champion Chase and cruised to a 15-length victory in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork on seasonal reappearance in December.
“Energumene is in great form and has come out of Cork really well,” Patrick Mullins said.
“Imran Haider, who rides him out and looks after him, is delighted with him, so it is all systems go for Ascot.
“It is shaping up to be a great race with Edwardstone in there as well.
“He is last season’s Arkle winner and I was blown away by his performance in the Tingle Creek. It should be a proper race, just like last year.
“We had a good, hard race in defeat last year but it did not dent our chances in the Champion Chase and we are following the same route again this season.”
Just three will go to post for Saturday’s showpiece, with Joe Tizzard’s outsider Amarillo Sky completing the field.
Energumene looks likely to start as the odds-on favourite to provide Willie Mullins with a fourth win in this race, the previous three having come in consecutive years with Un De Sceaux, but Edwardstone’s trainer Alan King is quietly confident ahead of
a tantalising battle.
“Edwardstone has been 100 per cent since Kempton,” he said.
“Days like these are what we do it for, aren’t they? That is why I got hooked on racing as a kid – some of those great battles. Grade One races should be like that. It is what racing is all about.
“At least Energumene will be favourite. That takes a little bit of the pressure off, doesn’t it? I can only worry about my horse really and try and get him there in top form and see what happens. It could be a real spectacle.”