Cheltenham Tips: Champion Chase Preview For Day 2 at The Festival
The 2022 edition of the Queen Mother Champion Chase is a race to savour. It is surely one of the strongest renewals in recent years yet we still have an odds-on favourite - which tells you all you need to know about how good Shishkin is.
Shishkin is a perfect 7-7 over fences, the last of which was a one-length defeat of the previously unbeaten Energumene in an epic Ascot Chase showdown in January.
There is a more than a hint of the Altior's about Shishkin, whose trademark late surge took him past Energumene after the final fence in that Grade 1. That power-packed finale is the primary reason why this unbeaten chaser is so well suited to Cheltenham, where the climb to the line from the final obstacle is such that it reveals any chink in a horse's stamina.
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Shishkin bids to join an elite group of horses to win three different Cheltenham Festival races on Wednesday and most fully expect him to add to his Supreme Novices' Hurdle and Arkle Chase successes.
Can he be stopped? Well, he's 10/11 with the best betting sites and that tells us that his prospects are a fraction over 50% - that's hardly ‘banker’ territory, is it?
If all of Shishkin's rivals produce their peak form on Wednesday - and that is obviously a huge 'if', then Nicky Henderson's star will need to be on his mettle to extend his unbeaten track record.
Pour Soi Has A Point To Prove
Chacun Pour Soi is an obvious case in point. Rated 176, the official assessor believes that this six-time Grade 1 winner is just 1lb inferior to Shishkin.
But what chance Chacun can run to 176 in this race? The form book tells us he'll get nowhere near it. He was below par when beaten at short odds in this race 12 months ago, despite moving ominously into contention at the top of the hill, and he bombed out completely in the Tingle Creek at Sandown earlier this season.
Mullins has tinkered with his preparation as he searches for reasons why his charge doesn't show his form away from Ireland.
Paul Townend had a tough choice to make but he's plumped for Energumene and it's not as though that horse has a great deal to find with Shishkin from Ascot, for all that the race panned out favourably for him on the day.
It is entirely possible that Energume will be ridden a little more conservatively this time in order to conserve energy for the climb to the line, but it's hard to believe that this won't be run at anything slower than an even tempo.
Shishkin should once again have Energumene’s number, especially at this track, but that’s not to say that dangers won’t emerge from elsewhere.
Funambule Sivola is an improving chaser who could easily make a mockery of his 33/1 with horse racing betting sites odds but a better option, albeit at a shorter price, is Nube Negra who went close in this race 12 months ago.
Negra Not Without A Chance
Nube Negra wasn't seen at his best in the Tingle Creek last time but trainer Dan Skelton has had this race as his main focus ever since and there is no reason to think that this horse won't be at the peak of his powers now.
The 8-year-old is a strong traveller with a wicked turn of foot when on song and that might just be an ideal cocktail for a race that looks nailed on to be run to suit. Expect him to be picking up the pieces late on and run into the frame, at least.
Put The Kettle On held off Nube Negra in this race last year but her form has dipped this season and she would need a career-best to see off this bunch in any case.
Envoi Allen is a forgotten horse in some respects but his form this season is a level below the best of this bunch. He's had a wind op since last seen, which could make a difference, but it will need to.
Champion Chase Verdict: Back Nube Negra each-way at 12/1
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