Trainer Gary Moore now has no alternative but to aim Sire De Grugy for Cheltenham after the chestnut raised his standard yet again in winning the Sodexo Clarence House Chase at Ascot yesterday.
Whether or not he is merely the two-mile king in absentia, with Sprinter Sacre still recovering after his episode in their short-lived meeting at Kempton over Christmas, is set to be determined in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on 12 March.
Sire De Grugy managed a reasonable impression of Sprinter Sacre in collecting his second Grade One of the season, with jockey Jamie Moore admitting “he was having a laugh at them” approaching the final two fences as he sauntered past Hidden Cyclone and 11 lengths into the distance.
Aside from his potent cruising speed, what was most impressive about the 5-4 favourite this time was his jumping over some tricky fences in deep ground.
Those factors proved far too great for market rival Somersby, who unseated Dominic Elsworth early on the final circuit to end hopes of an emotional victory for his connections.
Trainer Gary Moore explained in the past Cheltenham is not an ideal track for his horse, but he said here: “He’s got to go for it. I think he’s an improving horse and I’ve got nearly two months to freshen him up.
“I’ll give him a nice break for a couple of weeks then we’ll bring him back purposely for the Champion Chase. He deserves to be in it.
“When he first came to us he was a very free horse. Jamie’s done a great job and settled him now.”
Irish raider Hidden Cyclone kept on for second.
The rest of the day belonged to the ever-reliable Noel Fehily, who achieved a lucrative 272-1 treble.
He started when Highland Retreat (5-1) accomplished her mission for this season by adding further black type to her CV in the Grade Two OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle. Fehily then twice joined forces with Paul Nicholls and helped Irish Saint (6-1) carry out an 11-length demolition job in the Keltbray Holloway’s Hurdle.
Bury Parade (11-2), a quirky but capable jumper in a first-time hood, then led home Grandioso in a Ditcheat one-two for the Sodexo Handicap Chase.