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, and this year it falls to Sizing Europe to try and continue the trend of Arkle winners doing well in this race.
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 last year Big Zeb bids to do what Master Minded did the year before him and retain his crown by winning the Champion Chase twice. He looks to have stiff opposition this year but has to be respected.
All of the last 32 winners finished placed at worst last time out.
10 of the last 12 Arkle Trophy winners were 1st or 2nd in this race the next year.
27 of the last 29 winners started at single-figure odds.
19 of the last 26 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 looks set to be a fantastic race and well worth the wait.
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, but that has now been ironed out with a string of impressive displays. He won the race last year in great style (advised at 7/1) and looks set to launch a bold bid at the race again this year. His form over fences at 2M-2M1F on Good/Good to Soft ground reads (11F1), and if you want to compare that with his record on Soft/Heavy ground (F2141112) despite him being somewhat versatile in regards ground, he is clearly a better animal on better ground. He has followed a similar pattern to last year before taking in this race and is my idea of the winner at this stage, and provides more value than Master Minded does at the prices.
Captain Cee Bee
Germany (USA) (10.5f) — Elea Victoria (IRE) (Sharp Victor (USA) (10.5f))
Notes: Has always been held in high regard, and has had a low key comeback after breaking a blood vessel when sent off favourite for the Arkle Chase last year. In my experience horses rarely return to top form when they begin breaking blood vessels and he has plenty to find at the weights to mix it with the best of these, and looks like he’ll need to improve heaps if he’s to figure here – dismissed.
Mansonnien (FR) (16.9f) — Gold Or Silver (FR) (Glint Of Gold (11.0f))
Notes: Has been improving steadily over the last couple of years and has become somewhat of a cult figure over in Ireland. His form reads exceptionally well on ground Soft/Heavy in Ireland over 2M/2M1F (11121212111) but his two forays over to Cheltenham have resulted in him being beaten the length of around five football fields each time. He readily saw off Big Zeb the last day, but Golden Silver is the type of horse that is very much ground dependent, and relishes the slow tactical races you see quite often over in Ireland. The faster pace of the Champion Chase equipped with the quicker ground doesn’t look tailor made for this likeable sort and he’ll be passed over again.
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. He was more workmanlike in his success the following year but still won by seven lengths with Well Chief back in second. He came fourth in the race last year behind Big Zeb and never really let himself down on the ground, running some 17lb below his winning form in 2008. This year he returned to the track with two easy successes in relative point and shoot races, but almost came unstuck against Somersby in soft ground at Ascot last time. I’m worried about the ground at Cheltenham again for him this time round, and my suspicions once again are that we’ve already seen the best of this fellow, and the price of 5/2 is seriously on the short side.
Second Empire (IRE) (8.2f) — Back To Roost (IRE) (Presenting (14.3f))
Notes: Quite why Henrietta Knight continues to plough a fruitless furrow over this minimum distance when it is clear for everyone to see the horse needs further. The Ryan Air looks the perfect race for Somersby (he is still entered) but will no doubt run in this race. He has misbehaved on his two most recent outings at Cheltenham, and is liable to make mistakes on his way round, which at Championship level he is liable to be taken off his feet early but he will be finishing late, I’m just not sure he is quite up to top class despite his narrow-margin defeat behind Master Minded at Ascot last time I’m just not convinced.
Pistolet Bleu (IRE) (11.2f) — Jennie Dun (IRE) (Mandalus (12.3f))
Notes: Winner of the Arkle last year he has had somewhat of a mixed campaign since, trying a few different trips without success. Last time out he was beaten fair and square by both Big Zeb and Golden Silver last time out and it remains to be seen if the horse has stopped improving. He has a similar profile to Captain Cee Bee and for me has it to find at the weights with the principals but it wouldn’t surprise me if he plugged on into a place should they go a gallop – Cheltenham certainly brings out the best in him.
[frame_right src=”http://www.cheltenhamtips.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/22481-150×150.jpg” href=”#”]Woolcombe Folly[/frame_right]
Presenting – Strong Gara (IRE) (Strong Gale)
Notes: Has improved out of all recognition this year and has put himself forward as a live Champion Chase candidate. He has only won two handicaps but off marks of 142 and 154 he has done it with utter disdain for his rivals, and has been the subject of a lot of chat from speed-raters across the land. In a time where his rivals are reaching the end of their careers, and some are not as good as they once was this looks the most eligible new kid on the block to dethrone the past champions, but perhaps this is a year too soon? He is currently (4-5) over fences, and his only defeat came when last of 12 in last year’s Arkle (which came days after a nasty schooling accident at home) so that run is forgiven.
Both Guavain and Cornas need to improve but on all known form shouldn’t be able to cut it at this top tier and are both discounted on that basis.
At first I felt compelled to stick with my selection of last year and give Big Zeb the verdict in his bid to retain the Queen Mother crown, but in the end I’ve decided to give a chance to new-kid-and-valid-contender-on-the-block Woolcombe Folly, who recorded a faster closing sectional than Master Minded did on the same card (and carried 5lb less than Woolcombe Folly). I believe that Master Minded is only where he is in the market due to his previous high profile wins, and is no longer than horse of two years ago. So on that basis Woolcombe Folly has been overlooked with just a handful of runs and handicap victories to his name and is available at three times the price of his stable-mate.
[notification_box]1pt each-way Woolcombe Folly @ 8/1 with Bet365 (NRNB and Best Odds Guaranteed). [/notification_box]
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