The Queen Mother Champion Chase is a championship race run over two-miles for five-year-old chasers and above at Grade 1 level.
The total prize fund for this race stands at around £320,000. The race itself is the feature on the second day of the Festival (Wednesday) and is always filled with high quality entrants. Traditionally the field sizes for this race are smaller than some of the other big Festival races; however what we lack in quantity is made up for in quality, as the very best two-mile chasers do battle over the larger fences at break neck speed – a thrilling spectacle for the racing fan.
A general rule to follow in this sort of race are horses which are to the forefront of the betting market, as in recent years favourites have a very decent record in the race, as does previous Arkle winners, unfortunately this year Forpadydeplasterer looks to be out for the festival with lameness, but I wouldn’t of fancied him anyway.
This race has produced some fantastic memories down the line, and one in particular which sticks in my mind was when Edredon Bleu got up on the line to nail Direct Route in 2000. That was an absolute thrilling spectacle for me, and in memory of that I uploaded the race footage to YouTube, which you can view here: Champion Chase 2000.
The winner of the race for the previous two years Master Minded looks set to return from injury shortly and currently heads the market at 6/4. If he is back to his best like he was in 2008 then I doubt they’ll see which way he goes but with the problems he has had over the past few months, it’s hard to get excited about backing him at such a price, and therefore it should pay to look elsewhere.
All of the last 31 winners finished placed at worst last time out.
9 of the last 11 Arkle Trophy winners were 1st or 2nd in this race the next year.
26 of the last 28 winners started at single-figure odds.
19 of the last 25 winners had been placed at the Festival before.
Just one winner older than 10 since 1997.
With Master Minded in a bid to emulate Badsworth Boy (the only horse to have won this race three times) it is worth noting that Irish trained horses have a very respectable record in the race (19 from 50) and they last saddled the winner with Newmill back in 2006.
Nikos (9.7f) — Haute Tension (FR) (Garde Royale (11.2f))
Notes: An awesome winner of this race back in 2008, when slaughtering Voy Por Ustedes hard on the bridle. Looking back it could have been that Voy Por Ustedes was beginning his decline at the very top level (despite him reversing placings at Aintree next time). He was more workmanlike in his success last year but still won by seven lengths with Well Chief back in second. The form of his last run hasn’t worked out well at all, with both Well Chief and Mahogany Blaze getting beaten on all starts since (they finished in-front of him). This in part would be down to a fractured rib found on his right side two weeks after the race. He is due to run on Saturday in a weak renewal of the Game Spirit chase and that should tell us more, but I’m not willing to get involved at this stage at 6/4.
Winged Love (IRE) (14.7f) — Twist Scarlett (GER) (Lagunas (11.0f))
Notes: Has obviously improved slightly this year with two big margin successes going right handed, Twist Magic has thrown himself firmly into the Champion Chase ring with those wins, however I can’t have him at all. His record round left handed track reads a measly 1 from 8 (that’s a conversion of 12%). Compare that to his right handed form of 9 from 15 (60%) and you notice quite a difference. We can also factor in that he has looked a suspect stayer in the past and I believe he is a horse who just about gets the two-miles, so an uphill finish like at Cheltenham will certainly stretch him. His jumping also had a tendency to be a little erratic and over these fences you will more times than not come unstuck. Add in that in 12 races he has been ridden by someone other than Ruby Walsh, he has only won twice (Compared to Ruby’s 7 wins from 10). You have to think that Ruby Walsh will opt for Master Minded should he come through his race okay on Saturday, thus rendering Twist Magic’s case useless come Champion Chase day?
Night Shift (USA) (8.0f) — Wellesiena (GER) (Scenic (9.9f))
Notes: Is certainly best kept fresh and looks to be heading to the festival without a run since January which fits into that trend. However he appears on the downgrade after an excellent comeback last March his form has got progressively worse and that’s the reason why he is now 33/1. Should the break revive him given his record on the track (8 Runs, 3 Wins, 4 Seconds) then there is every chance he’ll fill the frame at a large price, but I can’t get excited about his chances I’m afraid.
Kahyasi (12.8f) — Queen Of Warsaw (FR) (Assert)
Notes: Its amazing looking at his profile that he is already 9 years old! This is a horse I hold in very high regard and have done since he first came over to England. He has taken to fences very well and his performance last time out was seriously impressive, considering he wasn’t fit, needed the run, and wasn’t going to be given a hard race and thus drifted markedly in the betting (*cough* Mr Murphy). Two solid runs at the Festival in the past (4th in the Supreme Novices to Captain Cee Bee & 2nd in the Arkle to Forpadydeplasterer) suggests this type of big race is right up his street and after advising him at 10-1 for the race last year, I feel somewhat obliged to tip him again, given how he’d of won with another stride last year.
Oscar (IRE) (15.2f) — Our Siveen (Deep Run (13.4f))
Notes: Is a horse which goes well fresh and has had issues with his jumping in the past. If you look back at last years Queen Mum, you’d have seen he was still in there pitching and travelling well when coming to grief 4 out. He then ran Master Minded to within a head at Punchestown, before an electric comeback run at Navan in November beating decent horses with consummate ease. He then went to Sandown for the Tingle Creek and despite going off a well backed favourite, he never looked happy on the track and finished a well beaten fourth. The race may have come too soon after his comeback run, but he was back to form at Punchestown winning the Cottage Chase (Grade 2) with ease almost two weeks ago and looks to head to The Festival in great shape.
Mister Mat (FR) — Drumrawn Lass (IRE) (King´s Ride (14.0f))
Notes: Is very much an unknown as to how good he actually is. Started off in modest company and failed to land a blow and was then transferred to Willie Mullins who has appeared to have produced some sort of magician act into turning this gelding into a serious champion chase contender. He easily beat last years Arkle winner at Punchestown off level weights by 15 lengths, and then was travelling well on his return in December when unseating his rider behind Joncol in the John Durkan. Quite how good he is nobody knows but he is certainly a ‘dark horse’ for this championship race and his ability to stay further than two miles is a big plus in what is usually a fiercely run race. Quite whether he is good enough remains to be seen but the quotes of 25/1 doing the rounds is quite appealing to small stakes.
Robin Des Pres (FR) — Joie De Cotte (FR) (Lute Antique (FR))
Notes: Looked quite a smart horse when making his debut over fences at the back-end of 2008, and ran a race full of credit at The Festival when third to Master Minded. He has since been touted a couple of times for the RyanAir chase, so it remains to be seen which race he’ll actually go for. I’m sure if he learns to brush up his jumping he could be a real player in the Champion Chase but I’d guess there will be one or two just too classy for him, so sticking him in the RyanAir could well be a wise move by connections.
In what looks sure to be a fast and furious renewal of the Queen Mother Champion Chase, it could pay to side with BIG ZEB again, who appears to have brushed up his jumping somewhat and rates a value choice against the short, but ultimately imperious Master Minded. Kalahari King was one I was interested in, but his current odds of 6/1 does little to inspire me considering I backed him at 10s for last years Arkle, and although I wish him well – I wont be on this year. Barker is the unknown quantity in the race, and he could literally be anything (although I assume Ruby Walsh has a handle on him), he could be worth a cheeky small stakes play at 25/1 (SportingBet) and is worth adding in as cover.