Moore expects improvement from Mad but respects rival
Jamie Moore is every bit as respectful of Un De Sceaux as Ruby Walsh is of Ar Mad, with the rider of the Clarence House Chase second favourite keen to make clear how hard it will be for him to gain a first win at the fifth attempt on a horse more closely associated with his sidelined brother Josh.
It was Josh Moore who was in the saddle when Ar Mad returned off the injury bench last month to finish a staying-on fourth to Un De Sceaux at Sandown, where the exuberant front-runner ruined his Tingle Creek Chase prospects with some uncharacteristic, sloppy jumping.
That, however, was his first outing in ten months, and was sufficiently promising for Walsh to state on Tuesday that Ar Mad – a best-priced 2-1 against 5-6 favourite Un De Sceaux – will "take the beating".
Giving his view, Moore, whose father Gary is keeping Sire De Grugy back for next month's Game Spirit Chase, said: "Beating Un De Sceaux won't be easy. I've got a lot of respect for him. We have to turn the Sandown form around. Our horse will have improved for the run, but Un De Sceaux probably will have done as well.
"I've got no negatives about Ascot for him. The fences come quite thick and fast down the back, so that should suit him.
"I always used to drop him in because I was trying to settle him. That was obviously the wrong thing to do. He's much better suited to doing his own thing, so there's no point trying to hold him."
One of those taking on the two big guns in the Clarence House, which this year carries the name of the Berkshire Community Foundation, is Top Gamble.
His trainer, Kerry Lee, has high hopes of a big Saturday with Kylemore Lough and Happy Diva also due to represent her at Ascot, while Bishops Road carries Sam Twiston-Davies in Haydock's Peter Marsh Chase.
"If ever there was a Grade 1 for Top Gamble to have a crack at, this is it," said Lee.
"It will hopefully be a small field, the soft conditions will be in his favour and I think Ascot will suit him down to the ground.
"He's in the form of his life at home, so why be shy? Un De Sceaux and Ar Mad will take some beating but if you look at the official ratings we're not out of our depth. If you're not in it, you can't win it."
Ascot clerk of the course Chris Stickels on Wednesday changed the going description to soft all over having concluded the last heavy patches had gone. Although some frozen spots were still evident during that tour of the track, the forecast suggests frost should not be a problem come Saturday.
"We're not expecting any significant rain, so I think we'll be racing on soft, tacky ground," said Stickels.