The Queen Mother Champion Chase has a rich history of throwing up outstanding winners, none more so than last year’s winner Sprinter Sacre who raised the roof when he put age and health frailties aside to roll back the years and deliver a vicious knockout punch to the new pretender Un De Sceaux and win his second Champion Chase.
The most prestigious open grade steeplechase at two-miles in the land, again we have the opportunity to witness another potential chasing superstar etch his name amongst racing’s immortals, as Douvan looks to add another win to his already burgeoning reputation.
Champion Chase 2017
Walk In The Park x Star Face (Saint Des Saints)
Notes: A class above all of the two-mile chasers in this division, with only Altior capable of touching him from the novices. He has looked an absolute superstar in all his runs to date, and any questions over the level of his form were quickly allayed when Sizing John went and won the Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup mid-way through February for Jessica Harrington. He is probably going to step-up in distance in the future so this may be the only time to catch him over the minimum distance, and providing he puts in a clear round will be much the best on the day, so just enjoy him.
Lando x Natt Musik (Kendor)
Notes: The biggest conceivable danger to Douvan, other than perhaps himself is the Colin Tizzard runner, who has won the Schloer Chase with such ease on his first run for his new yard, before suffering a set-back and made his return when beaten 13L by novice Altior at Newbury in the Game Spirit on his most recent start. That run will have put him right for the big race next week but it remains uncertain which target he will go for.
Oscar x Dantes Term (Phardante)
Notes: Fourth in the race last year behind Sprinter Sacre, it is still unknown if he goes for this race or the longer distance of the Ryanair Chase but would be a threat in either contest he lines up in. Looked as good as ever when third behind Un De Sceaux in the Tingle Creek when last seen, and you’d have to keep him on side for a race of this nature although a place at best is his likely outcome.
Garde La Victoire
Kapgarde x Next Victory (Akarad)
Notes: A consistent sort who most recently won a handicap at Sandown off a mark of 154. He was second behind Sir Valentino in the Haldon Gold Cup back in November and has mixed hurdling and chasing throughout this campaign. He holds entries in the Brown Advisory Plate and Grand Annual aswell as this. If he were to take this option he would run with credit as always, but a place is the best possible outcome.
Kayf Tara x Special Choice (Bob Back)
Notes: Entering the veteran stages of his career now at the age of 10, he showed he was as good as ever when third in this race behind Sprinter Sacre twelve months ago. He is very much a better performer on quicker-ground which he will hopefully get next week, and although very much not in the same league as Douvan and co, he can give value-hunters a run for their money at a price.
Sire De Grugy looks almost certain to miss the Cheltenham Festival this season after losing his sparkle at home, and it’ll be more likely they’ll give him a nice break and go again next season with him.
The Game Changer could well end up in the Grand Annual on the final day of The Festival but were connections looking to head down this route then you’d have to imagine he’ll be outclassed, place claims at best.
Simply Ned seems to be coming back to hand for trainer Nicky Richards who saddled him to be fifth in this race a couple of years ago. There were glimpses of promise in his two most recent outings suggesting that with some decent ground and a good pace to aim at, he could find his way into the frame if all goes right for him.
L’Ami Serge holds various other entries at The Festival but it looks like he could possibly add his name amongst the runners of the Champion Chase field. He wouldn’t be good enough though and has become somewhat of a bridesmaid in his races.
Sir Valentino has improved through the handicap ranks for Tom George and finished a narrow second to Special Tiara in the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton at Christmas. One assumes he’ll be ridden to pick up the pieces into the places late on but he doesn’t look good enough to have a say.
Un De Sceaux looks more likely to line up in the Ryanair Chase on day three of the Cheltenham Festival, as the yard make way for Douvan to continue his great run through. Un De Sceaux has won the Tingle Creek and Clarence House this season and looks as good as ever, so couldn’t be discounted if he turned up in this race instead.
This race all boils down to Douvan and how far he is going to win by. Unfortunately he is currently 1/3 in a few places and shorter elsewhere to do just that, and is therefore at a price where we couldn’t possibly advise backing him.
Providing the gelded son of Walk In The Park puts in a clear round he will win this and win it convincingly, only Altior has the capability to trouble him at this trip and he looks almost certain to be going for the Arkle Chase on day one., keeping in line with his novice status.
Un De Sceaux looks more likely to go for the Ryanair Chase and it would be a huge surprise if the Mullins camp pitched these two against each other.
Of the remainder the usual solid runs can be expected from Special Tiara who filled third position in this race twelve months ago behind Sprinter Sacre, but he isn’t getting any younger now at the age of 10.
Fox Norton cut a favourable impression on his first two runs of the season but it is unknown which target he will take up at The Festival now with the Ryanair Chase a possible target still open for discussion. If he does run in this which looks the more logical target he will be the one who will throw it down to Douvan the most but I thoroughly expect Douvan to see off everything and gallop away up in the hill to a resounding success.
The same can be said for God’s Own who finished fourth in this race last year but connections also having the option of the Ryanair Chase at their disposal, for a yard who also run Sir Valentino in the race which will be ridden to achieve a place one would imagine.
For me at the prices it is worth taking a chance in the W/O Douvan market, and opening up the extra place possibility of fourth, and it is very possibly that SIMPLY NED could plug around and achieve that position especially if one or the two Ryanair possibles head there instead of tackling this prize.
Nicky Richards gallant chestnut wasn’t at the peak of his powers last season but has shown a return to his previous best this term. As far as winning goes that wont be anywhere near good enough, but taking Douvan out of the equation there is every possibility he could fill the top three places behind him and at the price is worth a nibble.