2021 Champion Chase Tips – Time To Herald A New Chase Superstar
2021 Champion Chase Tips
The feature race on day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival is shaping up to be a fascinating clash between the old and the new. Lewis Tomlinson has studied the race in full detail and has a confident selection.
Champion Chase Overview
Good things come to those who wait. That will surely be the motto of all at Closutton heading into this year’s Champion Chase, the jewel in the two-mile chasing crown. Willie Mullins is still waiting for his first Champion Chase, despite having had top-class two milers such as Douvan and Un De Sceaux in his care in recent years. It’s perhaps the most notable omission from his trophy cabinet.
Champion Chase Key Contenders – Chacun Pour Soi
Chacun Pour Soi (5-6) has had to wait too. This will be his first foray across the Irish Sea to Cheltenham, a career previously interrupted by injuries putting pay to any prior Festival visit. If patience is a virtue, as they say, not many will be more virtuous than Mr Mullins.
The Champion Chase has been won this century modern legends such as Moscow Flyer, Master Minded, Sprinter Sacre and Altior, who we’ll discuss further later. It’s not foolish to suggest Chacun Pour Soi might soon be spoken of in the same breath as them, so electric has he been in notching three Grade 1s over the last two seasons.
Min, reigning Ryanair champion and consistently one of the best yardsticks in training, couldn’t cope with the relentless gallop Chacun Pour Soi served up to him in the Dublin Chase last season. Unfortunately, as has been the case on more than occasions during his career, an eleventh-hour injury ruled him out of following that up in the Champion Chase.
His main rivals in Ireland; in-form second season chaser Notebook (25-1), who garnered a brace of wins at both Grade 1 and Grade 2 level on his most recent Irish starts and last season’s Arkle winner Put The Kettle On (12-1), who herself had a completed a hat-trick when winning a messy renewal of Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November, had no answer whatsoever to Chacun Pour Soi’s push-button turn of foot in the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Notebook had his nose bloodied once more by Chacun Pour Soi when third in the Dublin Chase earlier this month, whilst runner-up Fakir D’Oudairies (25-1) emerged with credit but would make more appeal upped in trip for the Ryanair.
There’s no reason to suggest that either should be capable of turning the form around if they meet again in the Champion Chase; Put The Kettle On, whilst genuine and likeable, is still yet to a produce a genuinely top class performance and also has the option of the Mares’ Chase, whilst Notebook’s relationship with Cheltenham looks complicated and he’s not enjoyed either of previous Festival appearances, though a lack of crowd this year may help settle this buzzy type.
If the suspicion last season had been that Chacun Pour Soi was probably the world’s best two-mile chaser on his day, his performances this year have been more than confirmation and I see no reason why he would have any issue showing a similar level at the Festival. I wouldn’t worry, as some have proposed, about Chacun Pour Soi potentially struggling up the Cheltenham hill. Granted, he’s not the sort of horse who does his best work in the closing stages. What comes in the preceding furlongs does the damage, his ability to raise and sustain such an intense gallop can propel him into an unassailable advantage
Of course, as an ante-post proposition, Chacun Pour Soi does come with risks attached; he’s been as delicate as he’s been destructive during his career and has still only made the racecourse on nine occasions since his maiden win in August 2015, so the non-runner no-bet concession has to be advised if backing him before final declarations.
Politologue, on the other hand, will be having his sixth foray at the Festival, and for the first time, will arrive at Prestbury Park with a crown to defend. The reigning Champion Chaser may not have had his most strenuous test, with Altior and Chacun Pour Soi both absent and Defi Du Seuil hugely underperforming, but the likeable grey put in a clinical round of jumping from the front and had the race sewn up a long way from home.
The ten-year-old clearly remains in good heart this season- he achieved a career-high rating when winning the Tingle Creek and still ran to a creditable level when beaten into second by First Flow (12-1) in the Clarence House last time out. He’s testament to the importance of consistency and longevity in a top class racehorse, but he’s not one to be scared of, and place claims look a more realistic proposition than him becoming a back-to-back champion.
First Flow’s maiden Grade 1 win in the Clarence House came was his sixth victory in a row, and Kim Bailey warrants immense credit for the gradual improvement his horse has shown from run to run over the last year, whilst David Bass also deserves plaudits for his world-class ride aboard First Flow at Ascot.
However, Bailey has always been reluctant to race First Flow on anything other than testing ground and he’d probably have show further improvement once again to be winning this, though he’d certainly enter the place discussion if the ground was soft or heavy.
Former two-time champion Altior, who for the first time also has a Ryanair entry, was turned over in the Desert Orchid by a much-improved Nube Negra (8-1). On that showing, this will surely be an uphill battle for Nicky Henderson’s legend. Now eleven, Altior had looked like a horse who was gradually getting slower with age even prior to his injury last season and he never looked likely to win the race at any stage.
He still plugged on bravely to hold off ex-Arkle winner Duc Des Genievres for second, but the manner in which he was outpaced down the back signified that his time at the top over two miles is dwindling and he may find things happening a bit too quick here.
Altior is in the Game Spirit this weekend, while his conqueror Nube Negra looks to be heading straight to Cheltenham. Dan Skelton’s seven-year-old certainly doesn’t fit the profile of a top-level jumps horse – he made his debut on the flat in Spain as a two-year-old – and was a notch below the best novice chasers last season. It’s impossible to knock the visual impression he made at Kempton though, jumping superbly in the main and never seemingly out of his comfort zone, accounting for some well-established chasers in the process, though it’s worth wondering whether he was somewhat flattered by beating regressive and out-of-form horses. We’ll find out more about that when Altior runs on Saturday.
Champion Chase Big-Race verdict
CHACUN POUR SOI is quite rightly the highest-rated horse in Ireland and the only reasonable doubt anyone could have about his prospects of winning this would solely be down to being unproven at the track. I think he’s superior enough to still take this even if running to half a stone below his peak, and would rank for me as one of the bankers of the week.