Queen Mother Champion Chase Tips, Odds & Analysis

Queen Mother Champion Chase Tips, Odds & Analysis
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Queen Mother Champion Chase Tips

The Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase is the feature on Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival and racing fans will have their fingers crossed that the main contenders make it to the race this year.

When & Where To Watch the Champion Chase

15.05 Wednesday, March 17 - LIVE ON: ITV Racing & Racing TV

The UK Contenders

It seems rude to start anywhere else than the reigning Champion Politologue for Champion trainer Paul Nicholls. The history books will tell you that he won the race last year impressively by nearly ten lengths and many could feel he is overpriced this year to defend his crown. Although he will no doubt have to put in a career best to win this year, he looked to be one of the main contenders again when bolting up by seven lengths in the Tingle Creek on his reappearance.

Greaneteen that day on soft ground under Harry Skelton; a performance which achieved the same rating as his Champion Chase victory the previous season. He was sent off 11/8f to win the Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January but was taken on for the lead that day by First Flow and it was the younger rival who ran out victorious by seven lengths at the finish. The likeable grey should put up a bold show in this race but place claims look more realistic than any chance of him retaining his crown.

First Flow has progressed this year through handicaps starting off rated 148 and now looks a worthy contender rated 166. That win in the Clarence House was his sixth win in a row but it seems significant that Kim Bailey has been reluctant to run his gelding on anything other than soft or heavy ground. He has also avoided returning to Cheltenham since pulling up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2018 which is the only time in his career that he has ever finished outside of the first five in a race. That has to be a concern and for that reason I feel he is unlikely to extend his winning sequence to seven.

Trainer Nicky Henderson has won five out of the last nine renewals of the race including twice with the Patricia Pugh owned Altior. He had gone 19 races in a row unbeaten over obstacles including four Cheltenham Festival wins before Cyrname defeated him at Ascot over 2m5f last season. He was sent off even money favourite to make a winning comeback after a 323 day break in the Desert Orchid Chase where he was defeated by the improving Nube Negra. Altior had to give his younger rival 6lb that day but never looked comfortable during the race with regular rider Nico De Boinville at work a long way from home.

He stayed on well past former Arkle Chase winner Duc Des Genievres to finish second but the run left more question marks than answers. For the first time he holds a Ryanair Chase entry over further and on the evidence of that run a step up in trip could suit Altior. Only two winners in the last decade haven’t raced since January 1st so if he misses his engagement in the rearranged Game Spirit Chase at Newbury then that would also add another negative for the chances of the 11 year old.

Looking back at the career of Nube Negra is fascinating given that he ran on the flat a few times as a two year old in Spain. He was a good juvenile hurdler who finished 3rd in the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on only his fourth UK start but faded up the hill that day and in the Greatwood Hurdle at the course the following season. He won his first two novice chases last season at Warwick and Fakenham before looking a notch below the top company with defeats behind Esprit Du Large and Rouge Vif in graded races. On the evidence of reappearance win at Kempton he has improved a stone over the summer and the handicapper agrees by raising him from a mark of 152 up to 165. He has looked best on flat tracks in the past though and I think he will struggle in March off level weights with the main protagonists.

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The Irish Contenders

The UK haven’t won the Prestbury Cup since 2015 so it comes as a slight surprise that there has only been one Irish trained winner in the last eight renewals of the race. Chacun Pour Soi is currently the short priced favourite for the race and all the team at Closutton will be praying that he makes it to the festival this year. He was around 6/4 when declared a non runner with an abscess on the day of the race last year and had previously not seen a racecourse in 1089 days before making his Irish debut so his fragility is still a concern.

“It is hard to believe that Willie Mullins is yet to win a Queen Mother Champion Chase in his career despite having top class two milers such as Douvan and Un De Sceaux in recent years. Both were beaten at odds on in the race (2/9 and 4/6) in recent years so he won’t be overconfident despite having the market leader this year.

With form figures of 1121111 since arriving in Ireland, it is easy to see why many are putting Chacun Pour Soi in the ‘banker’ category for the Cheltenham Festival this year. He announced his arrival on the Grade 1 stage with a 4 ¼ length victory over Defi Du Seuil in the Ryanair Novice Chase at the Punchestown Festival in 2019 and has added three further Grade 1 wins since. According to RPRs he put in a career best performance when defeating both Notebook and Put The Kettle On in the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase at Christmas this year. Despite not having to jump what would have been the first and last fence because of low sun, Chacun Pour Soi eased clear to win by a widening 6 ½ lengths at the finish. A repeat victory in the Dublin Chase followed with Chacun Pour Soi putting more distance between himself and Notebook than at Christmas but it was disappointing not to see Min complete to give a stronger handle on the form.

Many people have tried to identify a weakness in the finishing effort of Chacun Pour Soi and whether he will cope with the hill at Cheltenham but it is often his mid-race move that gets others out of their comfort zone before a duel in the closing stages is needed. It is an unknown but the main question will be whether there is a horse good enough to be within striking distance jumping the last to exploit this potential flaw, I fear that may not be the case!

Notebook had previously put in his best performances at Leopardstown in his career with two Grade 1 victories as a novice chaser at the venue so his backers will be disappointed that he has been beaten 6 ½ lengths and 15 lengths by Chacun Pour Soi at his favourite course already this year. He has disappointed on both occasions he has run at the Cheltenham Festival so far in his career although the lack of crowds this year may help settle this buzzy gelding. Given these factors he makes very little appeal even as a place angle.

Put The Kettle On has shown her best form at Cheltenham and is unbeaten at the track. She won at the November meeting last year before staying on well to win the Arkle defeating Fakir D’Oudaries by 1 ½ lengths at the finish. She made it a hat-trick of course and distance wins with a win in the Shloer Chase on her reappearance before finishing 3rd in the Paddy’s Rewards Chase behind both Chacun Pour Soi and Notebook at Christmas. She is a fantastic jumper so would have been the most inconvenienced by them taking the fences out and will no doubt benefit from a return to Cheltenham in March. No mare has ever won the Champion Chase and she does also hold an entry in the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase on the final day of the festival over 2m4f so there are a couple of negatives against the Henry De Bromhead trained mare but given her strong course form she looks one of the more worthy contenders.

Fakir D’Oudaries has only disappointed once in his career and that was when pulled up in the Savills Chase on his penultimate start when trying 3 miles for the first time. He achieved a career best according to figures last time when 2nd to Chacun Pour Soi in the Dublin Chase back over a shorter distance and has previous Cheltenham form too. He won a Grade 2 hurdle by 13 lengths before finishing 4th in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle as a juvenile. He then finished 2nd in the Arkle last season with himself and Put The Kettle On pulling 18 lengths clear of third that day. He would look to hold a place chance if contesting this race but he is probably more likely to end up in the Ryanair Chase over further the following day.

The Verdict

The previous 12 winners of the Champion Chase have all had previous Cheltenham form which is the main reason anyone would be looking to oppose Chacun Pour Soi. However, at short odds and given his previous injuries I couldn’t recommend backing him at odds on for the race with a month still to go. The Henry De Bromhead trained Put The Kettle On looks the obvious alternative given her unbeaten record at the track and she would be my selection at 12/1 (NRNB because of the Mares’ Chase option).

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