Defi Du Seuil has reinforced his Cheltenham Festival claims with victory in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot.
Philip Hobbs’ stable star had narrowly beaten Un De Sceaux in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown last month – and confirmed the form in emphatic fashion.
Ranging alongside the gallant Un De Sceaux at the second-last fence with the rematch on in earnest, Defi Du Seuil (11-10 eq fav) jumped into the lead under Barry Geraghty.
He pulled away from his market rival between the final two obstacles to score by 2-3/4 lengths.
“Obviously we were very hopeful we might win again, but I couldn’t imagine he was going to win that easily,” Hobbs said.
“I’m just very surprised how easily he did it. We were hoping we would beat Un De Sceaux again, but by no means was it certain we were going to beat him.
“He travelled and jumped. He could have done with a stronger pace, maybe, but he jumped well throughout. It certainly wasn’t the plan to be in front when he was, but I suppose he had no option.
“Nothing is definite (Cheltenham). There’s no need for us to decide now. He’s in the Ryanair as well as the Champion Chase.
“I suppose with the pace he showed there it’s a bit more likely, the 2020 Champion Chase, but we’ll see nearer the time.”
Trainer Willie Mullins said they would not make a hasty decision on Un De Sceaux’s next race.
“I thought ground conditions would suit us. He (jockey Paul Townend) said he thought he didn’t fire, so it is disappointing,” he said.
“We will get him home and see and have a chat about what to do next.”