Clarence House Chase: Shishkin and Energumene on course to meet at Ascot

It looks like it's finally happening, people!

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One of the races of the season could take place at Ascot on Saturday as superstar two-mile chasers Shihskin and Energumene are on track to finally clash.

The pair are among the five horses to stand their ground for the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at the five-day confirmation stage. First Flow, Hitman and Amoola Gold complete the potential field.

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Shishkin and Energumene were set to meet in last year’s Arkle Chase but the latter missed the Cheltenham Festival through injury. Stepping up to open company this campaign, they are the top two in Paddy Power’s antepost betting for the Queen Mother Champion Chase ahead of the potential first instalment of their rivalry.

Nicky Henderson will be hoping Shishkin can follow in the hooves of his previous Clarence House Chase winners, Sprinter Sacre and Altior, who went on to score in that season’s Champion Chase. The dual Cheltenham Festival winner belatedly made his first appearance of the campaign in the Desert Orchid Chase over Christmas where he blew apart the field including Tingle Creek hero Greaneteen.

Willie Mullins highlighted the Clarence House Chase as Energumene’s target after the eight-year-old’s comfortable victory in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork in December. The Closutton handler enjoyed successive wins in the Ascot feature with Un De Sceaux between 2016 and 2018 but has never landed the Champion Chase in his training career.

First Flow was the winner of last year’s renewal but could only finish sixth of nine in the subsequent Champion Chase. Kim Bailey’s charge kicked off his campaign with a sterling 4½l defeat of Funambule Sivola in the Grade 2 Peterborough Chase last month.

Paul Nicholls has not won the Clarence House Chase since Dodging Bullets’ success in 2015 and the Ditcheat trainer is set to pitch Hitman into the mix. The six-year-old placed second in the Haldon Gold Cup and Tingle Creek in his two starts this season and would need to take another step forward to replicate those results.

Amoola Gold may be the rank outsider but the nine-year-old loves it round Ascot and is a two-time course-and-distance winner, with his most recent success coming in the Listed Byrne Group Handicap Chase in October.

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