Energumene is an odds-on favourite to go one better than last year in Saturday’s Grade One LK Bennet Clarence House Chase at Ascot.
Willie Mullins’s star met his only defeat in nine starts over fences when runner-up to Shikshkin in a memorable renewal of the race in 2022.
He is one of just three horses left in the valuable contest after Monday’s latest confirmation stage with firms going 4-7 about the Irish hope getting the better of his principal opponent Edwardstone.
Amarillo Sky, winner of handicaps at Cheltenham and Newbury this season, is the only other horse figuring in a disappointing turnout.
Energumene bounced back from last year’s defeat to finally break Willie Mullins’s duck in Cheltenham’s Queen Mother Champion Chase before also scoring at Punchestown.
He returned to action with a smooth success in Cork’s Hilly Way Chase last month.
“He has come out of Cork really well. Imran [Haider] who rides him out and looks after him is delighted with him so it is all systems go for Ascot,” Mullins’s son and assistant, Patrick, said on Monday.
“It is shaping up to be a great race with Edwardstone in there as well. He is last season’s Arkle winner and I was blown away by his performance in the Tingle Creek. It should be a proper race, just like last year.
“We had a good hard race in defeat last year but it didn’t dent our chances in the Champion Chase and we are following the same route again this season,” he added.
Mullins landed the Clarence House three years in a row with Un De Sceaux between 2016 and 2018. He has saddled a single winner in Britain so far this season, courtesy of Dads Lad at Cheltenham in October. Mullins’s Mr Incredible was runner-up at Warwick last Saturday.
Edwardstone’s trainer Alan King is eagerly anticipating the weekend feature and said: “This is what we do for, isn’t it? That’s why I got hooked on racing as a kid – some of those great battles. Grade One races should be like that. It’s what racing is all about.
“At least Energumene will be favourite. That takes a little bit of the pressure off, doesn’t it? Look, I can only worry about my horse really and try to get him there in top form and see what happens. It could be a real spectacle.”