The big two of El Fabiolo and Jonbon have scared off potential opposition in Saturday’s BetMGM Clarence House Chase at Ascot, with only two others entered for the Grade One showpiece.
Currently the best two-miler chasers in training, El Fabiolo and Jonbon finished first and second in the Arkle last March, with Willie Mullins’ El Fabiolo coming out on top.
When the pair met over hurdles at Aintree two seasons ago it was Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon that narrowly prevailed, and ever since it was first mooted the pair could meet again this weekend the third clash has been eagerly anticipated.
Given Jonbon has a rating of 170 and El Fabiolo 172, it perhaps should come as no surprise not many are keen to take the top-class pair on.
Joe Tizzard has entered the admirable Elixir De Nutz. Terry Warner’s 10-year-old is a dual winner already this year and finished third to Editeur Du Gite in the Desert Orchid over Christmas, but with a rating of 156 it shows the task he faces.
The only other entry is Dan Skelton’s 141-rated Unexpected Party, who is also engaged in the bet365 Handicap Chase.
The BetMGM Mares’ Hurdle has seen Henderson enter Marie’s Rock, Tweed Skirt and Theatre Glory.
Other notables include You Wear It Well for Jamie Snowden and West Balboa for Skelton.
Whether the meeting goes ahead due to the current cold snap, is still up in the air, however.
The track has been completely covered with fleece before the first of a forecast prolonged spell of freezing weather.
Clerk of the course Chris Stickels said on Monday morning: “It’s difficult to say what the prospects are at the moment.
“We are currently raceable, we covered the track on Friday and we are frost-free under the covers. We got down to minus 1.75C overnight.
“The forecast does indicate it is going to be quite cold through this week, with temperatures down to minus three or minus four on some occasions, but there are conflicting forecasts for Saturday.
“Some are suggesting it will still be sub-zero into Saturday morning while others are saying it will be a bit milder than that. It’s difficult to call at this stage, we just need to see how it develops as the week goes on.”