Philip Hobbs’ seven-year-old chaser Defi Du Seuil continues to move sharply up the National Hunt ranks after a very taking win in the Grade One Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

Impressive Jumping Display

The JP McManus-owned gelding is now three from three for the racing season having also landed the Grade 2 Cheltenham Chase in November, followed by a battling performance in taking the top-level Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown last month as the team move towards a crack at the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday March 11th.

Having only just edged out Willie Mullins’ old-timer Un De Sceaux in the Tingle Creek last time out and having had a tendency to idle when in front, Defi Du Seuil would have been the rightful favourite for this race but many had anticipated the contest to be extremely close once again with many a newspaper tipster plumping for his rival.

Defi was eventually sent off the 11/10 joint-favourite for this two mile, one furlong race with the heavy ground not thought to be too much of a problem for Barry Geraghty’s mount.

His old rival matched him in the market with Nicky Henderson’s Janika next in at 8/1 in the small but select five-runner field, and he took a keen hold early on under Daryl Jacob as Un De Sceaux and Paul Townend made the early running.

The pace was only a steady one around the Berkshire track meaning Un De Sceaux was keeping plenty in the tank for the finish, but Defi Du Seuil was jumping really well in behind, travelling strongly throughout before cruising up to the leader on the bridle under Barry Geraghty with a couple to jump as the crowd sensed a new potential champion could really be making his mark on the two-mile division.

Edging right and grabbing the lead between the last two fences, Defi Du Seuil then looked to put the race to bed as he was encouraged along by his rider heading to the last which he jumped very well again, forging clear in the final half-furlong to score with a bit in hand by 2¾ lengths in what was ultimately a very impressive performance.

Un De Sceaux kept on for a fine second place, while 66/1 shot Marracudja of Dan Skelton’s yard stayed on for third place, beaten just 7½ lengths at the line, and having been confirmed to have bled from the nose he put in a rather good performance which bodes well for the nine-year-old’s medium term future.

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Defi the New Champion Chase Favourite

With doubts still surrounding dual champion two-mile chaser Altior and whether or not he will aim for a race over a longer distance or come back to defend his crown, bookmakers across the board reacted to Defi Du Seuil’s impressive run by making him the new outright favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase on day two of the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Most firms now go 2/1 about the Hobbs horse though he’s as short as 7/4 in places, while Altior is now second-favourite at a general 3/1.

There’s money around for 8/1 chance A Plus Tard and 10/1 shot Cilaos Emery but the one to watch as a potential rival to Defi before the Festival is Willie Mullins’ Chacun Por Soi, third in the ante post market for the Champion Chase at a general 4/1.

Although beaten by A Plus Tard as an odds-on favourite at Leopardstown in December, this horse finished last season by beating Defi Du Seuil at the Punchestown Festival and with a good prep run and perhaps better ground, he could be the value to beat the new favourite in seven weeks’ time.