The Game Spirit Chase is a race which often has important implications towards the outcome of the Champion Chase at Cheltenham and this year looks to be no different with three genuine Queen Mother Contenders lining up in the shape of Altior, Politologue and Fox Norton. There are always key trends which help us pick out the winner and here we will highlight the ones which we feel are the most important.
Most of these boxes are ticked by a few in this field but the standout contender based purely on trends is Politologue. He is an up and coming seven year old trained by the brilliant Paul Nicholls who has had a perfect season so far, he has run three times and won on each occasion including the Tingle Creek and the Desert Orchid on his last start and a rating of 165 puts him right in the reckoning. Altior ticks a fair few boxes himself but the absence is his main concern and both he and Fox Norton are eight years of age.
Despite a lengthy absence the brilliant Altior is a hot favourite for champion trainer Nicky Henderson. He has been off since destroying last year’s Champion Chase winner Special Tiara in the Celebration Chase but has done absolutely nothing wrong over fences, he is the highest rated in this field and is often to even more improvement having raced in open company just twice and been a convincing winner on each occasion. He might need this a bit which means he isn’t one to pile in on but he is almost certainly the most talented horse in this field and it will take an extremely smart performance to beat him, he is a monster of a horse who is very difficult to get off the bit and even more difficult to go with once stoked up by Nico De Boinville.
Politologue has been the rising star of the two mile chasing division this season in the absence of Altior and Douvan and has serious claims of claiming his fourth graded win on the bounce here, he was an easy winner of the Haldon Gold Cup and jumped like a stag to account for Fox Norton in the Tingle Creek before beating Vaniteux on the bridle following Special Tiara’s exit. He is clearly in excellent form and although Paul Nicholls has warned he will likely come on a good deal for this run in preparation for the Champion Chase he is the pick of the bunch based on this season’s form and has the most solid profile coming into the race. He will want to use his slick jumping to try and get Altior in particular out of his comfort zone after a break and a positive ride should be expected and could well pay dividends.
Fox Norton completes the ‘big three’ contenders in this race as he was a close second in last year’s Champion Chase before picking up Grade 1s at both the Aintree and Punchestown festivals. He was beaten by Politologue in the Tingle Creek and jumped a bit slowly that day before staying on near the finish, with a slicker round of jumping he should be involved but he comes here with a pretty poor preparation having been pulled up in the King George when he never really went a yard. He is a big contender on known form and ratings but is on a bit of a revival mission here and it would be no great surprise were he left slightly undercooked for this by Colin Tizzard with bigger targets in mind for the spring. He has a massive engine and has form at the very top level over a range of trips so should be taken very seriously despite a flop last time out.
Traffic Fluide and Saint Calvados have other engagements so may not run and would have little chance if lining up anyway and both Valdez, who is coming off a monster absence, and Overtown Express look well outclassed in what is a very hot looking renewal of this race.