Our tip will be online shortly. Please check back soon.
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)
The Grade One Queen Mother Champion Chase is the biggest two mile chase every year, run on Day 2 (Wednesday 15th March) of Cheltenham Festival.
With our original Champion Chase tip Ar Mad declared a Non Runner, it looks even more unlikely that nothing will be able to stop the imperious Douvan from taking this race, and he is our tip to succeed.
Purchased by Rich Ricci following two starts in France (second on debut, and then a winner) he remains unbeaten when carrying the famous pink silks. 13 runs have seen 13 wins, with his roll call of honours including the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Arkle Chase and the Maghull Novices’ Chase – all Grade 1 races. His step up into more experienced company has seen him take three races as he liked, including the Grade 1 Cashcard Chase.
His official handicap mark of 174 rates him seven pounds better than anything else in the field, and with wins on all types of going from Heavy to Good to Soft, the ground will not be an issue. Neither will the Cheltenham hill, as he has proven with his two victories at the Festival at Prestbury Park.
Over fences, he has yet to come off the bridle in any of his victories and his cruising speed is something to behold. Despite the copious amounts of bad luck connections have had this season, they retain the services of their stable star and he should add the near £200,000 first prize to his £519,000 of prize money already acquired.
With the novice Altior looking likely to go for the Arkle Chase, his main danger is likely to be Colin Tizzard’s Fox Norton. However, form is firmly in the Irish raider’s favour, with two convincing victories on the occasions that they have met: by 11 lengths in the 2016 Arkle Trophy and then by 32 lengths in the Maghull Novices’ Chase. While there is no doubting the Potts horse has improved considerably and put in two lifetime best runs on his last two starts – not least when winning the Shloer Chase by an impressive nine lengths – his form looks nowhere near as strong as Douvan’s.
The Champion Chase betting trends are as follows:
- 9 of the last 10 winners had between 7 and 13 career chasing starts
- 9 of the last 10 winners had either 2 or 3 seasonal runs
- 10 of the previous 10 winners had RacingPost Ratings of 165 or higher on their last start before Cheltenham Festival
- 9 of the last 10 winners placed in their last completed Graded race before the Champion Chase
- 8 of the last 10 winners had previously at least placed at Cheltenham – 6 of the 8 had already won at Cheltenham
- The winners odds have varied; 2 odds on winners, 2 double figure winners (10/1 and 10/1) and 6 winners from 1/1 to 5/1.
Paul Nicholls has won the Champion Chase three times in the last ten years, twice with Master Minded (2008, 2009) and again in 2015 with Dodging Bullets. Nicky Henderson is the other multiple winner, with Finian’s Rainbow (2012) and Sprinter Sacre twice (2013 & 2016). Festival stalwart Barry Geraghty has ridden three winners of the previous ten, twice for Nicky Henderson and once for C A Murphy. Ruby Walsh rode both of Paul Nicholls’s Master Minded victories and will likely ride favourite Douvan this year; he is likely to go off a ridiculously short price for a trainer who has never won the race for Willie Mullins.
Trends Analysis: No big surprises in the trends, with both experience and class being strong factors in determining winners. Don’t rule out horses who have not already won around Cheltenham, but it may be best to downgrade those who struggled last time out, given their poor record. Trial races to bear in mind are the Tingle Creek (won by Un De Sceaux) and the Arkle Chase (Douvan), the Desert Orchid Chase (Sprinter Sacre) and the Tied Cottage Chase (Douvan).
The premier two mile chase of the year, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, is the pinnacle of the division and as such it has been won in the past by the very best, with Sprinter Sacre recapturing his crown in one of last season’s highlights. Our Queen Mother Champion Chase preview can be found below, with a tip ready to be backed above!
1 DOUVAN – Unbeaten for Willie Mullins in thirteen starts, his imperious stable star is yet to be challenged and all nine of his chasing starts to date have led to comfortable victories. Winning the 2016 Arkle Chase, he has looked unbeatable and it looks a certainty that if he stands up in this he’ll take his first Cheltenham Festival Championship Race in impressive fashion. Arguably, this will be his biggest test yet; but, in the same vein, we have not seen the best of him yet and if needing to come off the bridle for this, the response is likely to be frightening.
2 FOX NORTON – Smart chaser in his own right and has been much improved this season, winning on seasonal reappearance over C&D in October before returning one month later to win the Shloer Chase in empathetic style by nine lengths, again over C&D. He was no match for Altior on his latest start in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury, beaten by thirteen lengths and only five ahead of Dodging Bullets (2m, Soft). On the best of his form he looks the only ‘threat’ to Douvan in this but will have to improve 8lb in the ratings if he’s to get near Willie Mullins stable star. Obvious place claims and although he’ll try to serve it up to Ricci’s seven year old, he’d be hugely surprise winner.
3 GARDE LA VICTOIRE – Ten year old for Philip Hobbs who is a Grade 2 winner over fences, with that coming over C&D in November 2015. Rated 158 so clearly smart in his own right, winning his latest start at Sandown in a competitive looking handicap off top weight (1m 7f, Soft). This however is an entirely different ball game and much more is required, needing to find 8lb with Fox Norton alone and it’s not worth looking at what he needs to find with Douvan. His jumping is a concern as he has a tendency to jump out to the left and he has fallen twice over the larger obstacles, once here at Prestbury Park. Others make more appeal for the placings.
4 GOD’S OWN – Finished fourth in last year’s renewal of the Champion Chase behind Sprinter Sacre and beat the great Vautour in the Irish Champion Chase at Punchestown a month later. This season he has been running well, finishing second in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree on seasonal reappearance (2m 3f, Good), though was a shade disappointing when only third at Ascot in a Grade 2 in November (2m 5f, Good to Soft). Trip was a possible excuse on that occasion and he was back to his best when a close third behind Un De Sceaux and Sire De Grugy in the Tingle Creek in December (1m 7f, Good to Soft). Obvious place contender as he does well over this C&D and is a ground versatile which is reassuring. Likely to be fighting out second with Fox Norton for the in form Tom George yard with Adrian Heskin taking the ride.
5 SIMPLY NED – Hasn’t been disgraced this season and probably running the best he can now at the age of ten, though has a lot of work to do if he’s to even place in this. Well beaten in the Shloer Chase by Fox Norton who has improved since and although his third at Leopardstown in a Grade 1 behind Douvan (beaten 15 lengths by that rival) was an okay display, it leaves him with a lot to do. Others much more likely for the places and best left alone in this.
6 SIR VALENTINO – Won the Haldon Gold Cup on seasonal reappearance at Exeter in November (2m 1f, Good), running on gamely to gun down Garde la Victoire close home (2m, Good). Following on from that he was fifth in the Tingle Creek when running on too late in the day and was far from disgraced when pushing Special Tiara to his limit in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton when last seen (2m, Good). Not a forlorn hope for the placings with Paddy Brennan taking the ride for Tom George and if they go a good clip out in front (which is likely with Special Tiara in the field) he could well sneak into a place if all goes to plan.
7 SIZING GRANITE – 20lb to find in the ratings with Douvan and this nine year old has not been at his best this season since joining Colin Tizzard, pulling up at Cheltenham in the BetVictor Gold Cup in November on seasonal reappearance (2m 4f, Good to Soft). Down in trip back over hurdles, he was again well beaten at Taunton in last month (2m, Good) and looks unlikely to be involved in any capacity in this today. Look elsewhere for placings.
8 SPECIAL TIARA – Ten year old who has been a stalwart of the two mile chasing division for years now, finishing third in the race last season behind Sprinter Sacre. His season perhaps age has started to catch up with Henry Bromhead’s likeable horse though, who was well beaten in the Shloer Chase over C&D in November on seasonal reappearance. Granted, he did win the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton in December when just fending off Sir Valentino (2m, Good), but weakened quickly here in January in the Clarence House which was a poor effort (2m, Soft). Likely to give another bold sight out in front for a bid for glory but may just fall short of the places this year with some potential improvers in the field.
9 TOP GAMBLE – Won the 2016 Game Spirit Chase at Newbury (2m, Soft) and baked that up when comfortably winning the Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse in April, beating Sizing Granite by seven lengths (2m 1f, Yielding). This season he been running consistently well without looking like he was going to threaten, with his latest third in the Clarence House here in January a prime example (2m, Soft). He ran well that day but never looked likely to get involved for win purposes, with the main concern for this run being that he wont have the soft ground he likely needs. Likely to fall short of the placings in this despite retaining the assistance of Davy Russell.
10 TRAFFIC FLUIDE – Lightly raced seven year old who showed some very promising form last season finishing a strong finishing third in the 2016 Clarence House at Ascot in January (2m, Soft). He suffered a set back towards the end of last season and returned this campaign when fourth behind Altior in the Game Spirit Chase (2m, Soft). Running well until weakening out of things with two fences to take. Perhaps that effort can be forgiven since he had been off for over a year, but he failed to improve in the Ascot Chase when unable to threaten (2m 5f, Soft). Again, perhaps allowances can be made for the fact he didn’t’ stay the trip but he has a lot to prove at present for Gary and Joshua Moore. Others have more obvious claims for the placings but isn’t one to dismiss lightly.
Ten runners will do battle in the 2017 renewal of the Queen Mother Champion Chase:
- FOX NORTON
- GARDE LE VICTOIRE
- GOD’S OWN
- SIMPLY NED
- SIR VALENTINO
- SIZING GRANITE
- SPECIAL TIARA
- TOP GAMBLE
- TRAFFIC FLUIDE
The only back-to-back winner in recent years was the Paul Nicholls trained Master Minded, who rounded off the noughties with wins at 3/1 and as the odds-on favourite in 2008 and 2009 respectively.
Barry Geraghty rode the relatively unfancied 10/1 shot Big Zeb to victory in 2010, leading practically the whole way on good ground before moving away from the field to claim a six length victory. He was beaten into second the following year by another 10/1 shot Sizing Europe. Andrew Lynch drew his mount level with the leaders going over the seventh, was driven out before the second to last and stayed on strongly to secure a first Queen Mother for his trainer Henry De Bromhead.
The 2012 and 2013 races were both won by the Barry Geraghty/Nicky Henderson combination. Finian’s Rainbow was the first in this big race double; sent off at 4/1, the nine-year-old tracked the leaders throughout, battled for the lead going over the last and stayed on strong when all out over the final 100 yards. He eventually edged out the defending champion to claim a dramatic victory. The following year’s instalment was much less competitive, as Sprinter Sacre, at the height of his prestigious powers, romped to a 19 length victory as the odds-on favourite. No one could touch him that day as he pulled away from the field just before the second to last, looking at his smooth, dominant best throughout.
With Sprinter Sacre unable to defend his title due to injury, Gary Moore’s highly rated chaser Sire De Grugy was the 11/4 favourite and lived up to that tag with a comfortable six length victory. Although held up at the start of the race, Jamie Moore’s mount soon tracked the leaders and drew level before pulling away on the flat, confidently running away from the chasing pack for a six length victory.
The 2015 race looked like a mouth-watering showdown between Sire de Grugy and the returning Sprinter Sacre. But it sadly was not meant to be, as the Nicky Henderson star never looked race ready and was disappointingly pulled up well before the end. Sire De Grugy too looked a little out of sorts, eventually finishing fourth. However, in one of the tightest and most exciting finishes in recent years, it was Paul Nicholls who regained the prize he had last won in 2010, as Dodging Bullets pulled clear of Somersby and Special Tiara over the final furlong to claim a huge victory for Nicholls and his jockey Sam Twiston-Davies.
However, a year makes a lot of difference as Sprinter Sacre returned to his magnificent best, taking five lengths out of Un De Sceaux and Special Tiara on the turn to charge up the Cheltenham hill and win by three and a half lengths, regaining his crown. Un De Sceaux only just held off Special Tiara and he once again ran admirably to finish third in an emotional renewal of the race.