Cheltenham Festival ante post tips: Shishkin and Energumene set for Champion Chase rematch

Shishkin and Energumene will do battle once more in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.Shishkin and Energumene will do battle once more in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Queen Mother Champion Chase Rematch for Shishkin and Energumene

With several leading bookmakers now offering “non-runner – no bet” on the feature races at the Cheltenham Festival 2022, we have been scouring the form book for value bets. The five featured races are the Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Ryanair Chase and Stayers Hurdle. Although the prices are shorter to allow for the concession, you have the security of knowing that your stake will be returned if your selection does not run. Here is an early look at the market for the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday 16th March.

Shishkin remains odds-on favourite after Ascot victory

The Clarence House Chase at Ascot in late January resulted in a famous duel between the top two-mile chasers in Britain and Ireland. Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin and the Willie Mullins-trained Energumene both started the race unbeaten over fences. Their paths had not crossed previously as Energumene had been forced to miss last season’s Arkle through injury.

The Irish hope likes to make the running and set off in front with jockey Paul Townend making it a sensible pace. As expected, Nico de Boinville was happy to track him while last year’s winner First Flow did his best to separate the pair until tiring at the third last. Shishkin only made one minor error at the sixth and came under pressure at the second last. He took a while to hit full stride but reeled in Energumene on the run-in to win by a length.

There have already been favourable comparisons with the likes of Altior and Sprinter Sacre, both former Champion Chasers trained by Henderson. Attention immediately turned to a rematch in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham. It will be on a very different track, going left-handed and probably on better ground. There is no obvious reason why these factors would favour one horse more than the other. Shishkin is a best-priced 4-6 with a run with Betfred with Energumene at 11-4.

Stage set for epic duel in Queen Mother Champion Chase 

It is 12-1 bar the big two in the ante-post betting which brings in last year’s beaten favourite Chacun Pour Soi. He is a stable companion of Energumene and was odds-on last season after impressive victories in two Grade 1 races at Leopardstown. He travelled strongly for most of the race but could not quicken on the run-in and was beaten by Put The Kettle On and Nube Negra. Chacun Pour Soi looked back to his best when beating Ryanair winner Allaho at Punchestown in April but trailed in a remote last in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December. 

That race resulted in a 1-2 for Paul Nicholls with Greaneteen beating Hitman by five and a half lengths. The winner was soundly beaten by Shishkin at Kempton over Christmas. Nube Negra finished a disappointing fourth in the Tingle Creek with Trainer Dan Skelton deciding to keep him fresh for Cheltenham. It is difficult to see what else might emerge as a threat to the favourites with 2020 winner Politologue now eleven years of age and Put The Kettle On having disappointed in her last two races.

The inevitable conclusion is that, assuming both horses arrive fit and well, Energumene and Shishkin will thrill the Cheltenham crowd with another epic duel. Shishkin’s stamina won the day at Ascot and he looks a worthy favourite to emulate Henderson’s previous Champion Chase winners.