LiveScore Racing Preview: Ascot, January 22, 2022

Shishkin returns to the track at Ascot this weekend
Shishkin returns to the track at Ascot this weekend

Ascot is the scene for one of the biggest collisions of the jumps season thus far on Saturday when Shishkin and Energumene draw swords in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at 3.35pm.

Trained by Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins, respectively, they are both unbeaten over fences and appeared unlikely to meet before Cheltenham in March - but here they are in mid-January at Ascot for a real blockbuster.

It's a quality seven-race card at the Berkshire track, with action set to be 'soft-good to soft in places', we've picked out five to follow on the afternoon.

1.10pm - SBK Handicap Chase

There is a real open feel to this staying chase, with Cat Tiger and owner/rider David Maxwell looking to gain some compensation after an agonising nose defeat at Doncaster last month.

They have got their chance, but that was a hard race, and the eight-year-old is under a bigger weight this time. 

Didero Vallis should go close for a Venetia Williams team in flying form, but maybe WINDS OF FIRE can improve again.

Evan Williams' charge didn't get beyond the first at Hereford on chase bow in November, but he made amends when scoring at Newcastle the same month and then ran well when a close third at Taunton in December. He might have won that if he'd met the last better, and he's far from exposed.

LiveScore selection: Winds Of Fire

1.45pm - SBK Holloway's Handicap Hurdle (2m3f)

Top-weight Garry Clermont ran a cracker in a Grade 3 handicap over a  shorter distance here last month, that race was won by Tritonic, and he is off the same mark today and a key player for Jonjo O'Neill - with no worries at this increased trip.

UNEXPECTED PARTY scored at Wetherby in October on second hurdles start and has been second in both starts since, including when just edged out by a fellow improver back at the Yorkshire layout on Boxing Day. He's got scope for better again with the stiff finish here certain to suit at this trip.

LiveScore selection: Unexpected Party

2.55pm - bet365 Handicap Chase (2m5f)

Venetia Williams will hope the booking of Lucy Turner can steer Fanion D'Estruval to victory
Venetia Williams will hope the booking of Lucy Turner can steer Fanion D'Estruval to victory

FANION D'ESTRUVAL made short work of his rivals at Newbury in November when put back into handicap company. He had 4½-lengths in hand but, in truth, was worth more. 

The assessor has slapped him with an 8lb rise for that score, but Venetia Williams puts 7lb claimer Lucy Turner on board to offset the bulk of that increase. 

She's got an excellent 33 per cent strike rate for this trainer in the last 12 months and could enhance it here.

LiveScore selection: Fanion D'estruval

3.35pm - SBK Clarence House Chase (Grade 1, 2m1f)

There is a top-class clash to savour here as Shishkin and ENERGUMENE put their unbeaten records on the line in the Grade 1 Clarence House. It's hard to split the pair, and tactics could sort it. 

Willie Mullins' underdog will attempt to make all under Paul Townend based on all known form, and he could really serve it up to Shishkin.

The latter won well at Kempton over Christmas but will have to better that - and perhaps anything he has done thus far - to maintain his perfect record. It should be a cracking contest, either way.

LiveScore selection: Energumene

4.05pm - SBK British EBF 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle (2m5½f)

It was hard not to be impressed with GALIA DES LITEAUX at Wetherby in last month's rules bow as the once-raced Irish point winner left her rivals trailing by 30-lengths in a fine display for Dan and Harry Skelton. 

An extra two furlongs around here should only be to her pleasing, and while the likes of Charles Ritz, Monbeg Genius and Complete Unknown are better quality opponents, she does look to have something about her and can double her tally in the Ascot finale.

LiveScore selection: Galia Des Liteaux

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