The Clarence House Chase is a Grade 1 steeplechase that is open to horses aged five and over. It is usually run at Ascot Racecourse during the jump racing season at the famous old course, but it has been moved to Cheltenham numerous times over the years, including last year in 2023.
It looks as though 2024 is to be no exception, with the fixture that it is normally run in cancelled owing to a frozen track. Rather than the race being cancelled altogether, however, it is instead being moved to Cheltenham’s Festival Trials Day, making it the fourth time in 11 years, sixth time in total, that the Grade 1 events taken place in Gloucestershire rather than at the course better-known for its Royal meeting.
An Important Race
The Clarence House Chase is seen as an important race by the British Horseracing Authority, with some considering it to be one of the major races of the jump racing season. It is with that in mind that a decision was taken to re-schedule it to be run at Cheltenham, rather than allowing it to be cancelled altogether.
In 2023, the Levy Board contributed around £46,000 to the total prize fund for the race, with about £45,000 being contributed this year. The BHA and the Jockey Club are providing the money for the rest of the purse, which is going to amount to £105,000; up £15,000 compared to what it was run for last year.
The race was due to be worth £175,000 if it has taken place at Ascot as planned, so it is down slightly on the original amount, but it is still seeing more money in the pot than was there in 2023. In spite of this, Willie Mullins has confirmed that his star chaser, El Fabiolo, will not be running in the race and will instead be seen next at the Dublin Racing Festival on the fourth of February.
It was hoped that the race would put the nest young chaser in Ireland alongside the finest that Britain has to offer in the form of Jonbon, but that is obviously not going to be the case now. Last year, Mullins did commit Energumene to run in the re-arranged race, but this time he won’t do that again with his star horse.
Back to Cheltenham for the Race
Run over two miles, one furlong and 167 yards (or two miles and 62 yards at Cheltenham), the Clarence House Chase is a Grade 1 event that hit the headlines when it was won for the third successive year by Un de Sceaux in 2018. It is one of the most important National Hunt races on offer at Ascot Racecourse, which is better-known to most people as a flat racing course.
It was inaugurated in 1989, even though it was supposed to be run for the first time in 1987. That running was abandoned because of frost, which has been something of a recurring problem for it in the years since. It was made into a conditions race in 2007 but didn’t take place that year due to a waterlogged course.
In 2013, the Ascot fixture had to be abandoned due to snow, with the race being moved to Cheltenham. In both 2017 and 2023, frost saw the Ascot fixture once again cancelled and Cheltenham asked to host the important race, so the news that that is also what has happened in 2024 coming as little surprise to many.
It’s just not financially possible sadly Tony. As well as the considerable logistically challenges, our model and prize money depends hugely on ticket sales and hospitality, the vast majority of which would be lost at such short notice.
— Will Aitkenhead (@willaitkenhead) January 18, 2024
Temperatures are due to rise heading into the weekend, with many feeling that the race should be delayed until the Sunday, but the Head of Corporate & Industry Affairs at Ascot Racecourse, Will Aitkenhead, saying on social media that the logistics of leaving it so late to decide what to do were simply unfeasible.