Cheltenham '11 – Champion Chase

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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 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.

Key Trends
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.

Big Zeb
10-y-o Gelding
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
10-y-o Gelding
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.

Golden Silver
9-y-o Gelding
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.

Master Minded
8-y-o Gelding
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.

7-y-o Gelding
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.

Sizing Europe
9-y-o Gelding
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=”×150.jpg” href=”#”]Woolcombe Folly[/frame_right]

Woolcombe Folly
8-y-o Gelding
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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One of many racing enthusiasts around the globe, love both flat and national hunt racing. Part-own a racehorse, and used to be involved in a couple of slow greyhounds around the Romford circuit. Favourite NH horses would be; Kauto Star, Denman, Challenger Du Luc, Monsignor, Guitar Pete, Harchibald, Istabraq - the list is effectively endless.... @OHRacing Google+


  1. Yeh im with you on Woolcombe Folly mate, looks the one going the right way and others could be potentially going in the opposite direction. Looks overpriced on recent form and you dont win top handicaps off 154 if you aren’t capable of cutting it at this level.

    Good luck

  2. “In my experience horses rarely return to top form when they begin breaking blood vessels”

    Denman did, but then again Captain Cee Bee is no Denman.

    Woolcombe Folly has taken an age to mature and his rapid rise up the ranks comes as no surprise to those closest to him – he will give M&M a real ran for his money.

  3. My nap of the meeting and l think will be the easiest winner of all the big races, Master Minded for me is a certainty. Big Zeb does not look the same horse to me this year and 10/3 l think is crazy. Golden Silver looks interesting but his Cheltenham form is terrible and although Somersby ran a blinder last time l think Ruby knows MM a lot more and lm struggling to find anything to get near him.

  4. I’m quite a big Somersby fan but I’d like to think that when it comes to him, head still rules heart. I’m fairly confident at some stage he will win a big race and although I do think he’s a bit on the short side, it could be this one. A lot of the post-race focus from the Victor Chandler Chase was taken up with McCoy and Master Minded so to some degree, Somersby was slightly overlooked. The change of tactics seemed to go down well with the horse and he jumped brilliantly. His jumping will be the key on the day and if it can keep him within touching distance, you know he’ll be flying up the hill. Anyone who is anyone has been saying this horse needs to step up in trip, but despite her eccentricity, Hen knows the time of the day; For her to ignore that and stay true to this trip is something I just can’t dismiss as obduracy. Providing his temperament is kept under check, I’d be disappointed if Somersby wasn’t at least in the frame but I honestly think he holds a strong chance in this.

  5. Forget the time, Woolcombe Folly hasn’t beaten anything. I just cannot have him eating at the top table.

    Golden Silver isn’t brave enough at his fences, and his tendency to put in short ones will cost him lengths.

    This will be slugged out between Master Minded, Big Zeb, Sizing Europe and Somersby.

    Too close to call. I make Master Minded the favourite, but the current value is with Sizing Europe @ 10/1.

    Thrilling race in prospect – can’t wait.

  6. Not my words, Can’t be having woolcombe folly.

    “Presenting is interesting as a sire in the Cheltenham context. As a proven influence for stamina whose progeny tend to excel over fences rather than hurdles (sire of Denman and War Of Attrition), he has recorded six winners from 40 runners (15 per cent) over the larger obstacles during the last five Festivals. However, all six winners came over three miles or further (contested by only 19 runners) — so the strike rate over that distance increased to 32 per cent– whilst a further four of the 19 challengers finished placed, increasing the win-or-place ratio to 10/19 or 53 per cent. This all augurs well for Jessie’s Dream which is stepping up in trip to three miles for the first time, but doesn’t bode well for Woolcombe Folly (two-mile Champion Chase) which coincidentally suffered his only defeat over fences over course and distance last year”

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