The champion chaser Altior will line up in the biggest race in Britain this weekend, on what will be the last stop on his Road to Cheltenham, to face only two rivals in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot after the would-be Irish raider Un de Sceaux was pulled out of his attempt to win a fourth rendition on the spin by connections.
A trio of the select few chasers from these shores that can aspire to lay a glove on Nicky Henderson’s superlative inmate in Simply Ned, Waiting Patiently and Saint Calvados, forgo entries in the race and will head to Leopardstown and the Dublin Chase at the beginning of February instead.
Fox Norton and Diego Du Charmil are a pair of Grade 1-winning chasers in their own rights but a three-runner affair in a top grade race of this nature is a poor reflection on the sport. It’s the smallest field in a British Grade 1 Chase since 2014 and with a 1-8 fav atop the market, it doesn’t set the imagination alight.
If this in itself wasn’t enough of a case for the race being made a handicap, like it was in its pomp, then a recently-resurfaced clip of the 1989 rendition of the race, where the great Desert Orchid gave Panto Prince 22lbs and managed to out battle him in a to-do for the ages.
‘Dessie’ pulling alongside his featherweight rival and grinding him down up the home straight, slowly, inescapably, before just getting his nose up close home is enough to give any fan of the sport goosebumps and is well worth returning to this week.
The racing public have been making a case for being reverted back to handicap status to bring back a degree of competitiveness to it on social media throughout the week and we’ve picked out a few snippets of the discussion, as well as that great finish from '89.