Queen Mother Champion Chase – A Look Ahead From The New Year
The Queen Mother Champion Chase has more propensity to throw up a spectacular winner than any other race. The likes of Master Minded, Sprinter Sacre and Altior have all made jaws drop in the recent past and there is a chance we may have two horses of their calibre at once this season. Courtesy of the Non Runner No Bet markets from Bet365 and Betfred, we’ve taken an early antepost look at proceedings so far.
Favourite – Shishkin
Sprinter Sacre and Altior’s hoofprints had barely faded by the time SHISHKIN was expected to replicate their achievements. He had not even jumped a fence at that point.
Now that he has, perhaps our expectations were not high enough. He has won his last nine over obstacles, already almost halfway to Altior’s record haul and has not even been close to being beaten.
His six wins over fences have been rampant, with the exception of his Grade 1 Maghull Novices’ Chase win at Aintree. However, a long season may have been telling that day. He still won of course.
His reappearance destruction of Tingle Creek winner Greaneteen was especially breathtaking and the reaction of a jovial Nicky Henderson in the crowd told the whole story. This horse is special and we can only pray he’s on his A-game come March. He is a shade of odds-on to emulate his stablemates.
The Challenger – Energumene
Were ENERGUMENE to have emerged at any other time, he would be one of the strongest antepost favourites for any Festival race in recent years.
As it is, Nicky Henderson has unearthed yet another two-mile gem, but Shishkin may not be invincible, particularly in the face of Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old. He is also unbeaten over fences, with no rival matching him in his five starts to date.
All of his racing has been done in Ireland so far, as he missed the Cheltenham Festival through injury last season. That said, he had possibly beaten more substantial opposition than Shishkin prior to this season and had done so as easily.
His tendency to adjust right may not be ideal, but he has tended to dominate from the front and gallop his rivals into submission. If he can do that to the favourite, he may be able to place among the greats.
Last season, CHACUN POUR SOI was an odds-on favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase. It is remarkable how much the complexion of a race can change in the space of a year, as he may well go off at a double-figure price 12 months on.
That owes much to the arrival on the scene of the aforementioned duo, but also because he was beaten at Cheltenham last March. Add to that his Tingle Creek disappointment and there must start to be fears that he may not be the best traveller.
He still took apart stablemate ALLAHO in the Punchestown Champion Chase thereafter, an exceptional performance given what that rival did in the Ryanair Chase. Allaho is likely to head for that contest again, but he does have gears. As to what that race says about Chacun Pour Soi: he would be difficult to ignore on his best efforts, but he is now a ten-year-old and others may be improving past him.
Among those are GREANETEEN, brushed aside by Shishkin, but a two-time Grade 1 winner. He was fourth in the Champion Chase last term, but may have filled out more now. He could be an each-way option, but surely cannot beat Shishkin after their Kempton match.
Finally, NUBE NEGRA is another on a retrieval mission, but could be the most talented and likely rival to show up in opposition. He was second in the race last season and probably unlucky not to win, while he was a ready winner of the Shloer Chase on his reappearance. He will be fresher for the Champion Chase than he was when last of five in the Tingle Creek and that should make all the difference.
This could be where your money is made. With Shishkin and Energumene likely to both turn up and be far superior, the third place spot is the one you want to claim.
EDITEUR DU GITE is one of the most improved horses in training, winning four of his last five for Gary Moore in Sire De Grugy’s colours. That has seen him rise from a mark of 125 to 153, which leaves him on the cusp of Graded company. If he can continue to improve, he would be in with a chance of making the tricast.
ALLMANKIND’s latent talent also seems to have been forgotten about. He was disappointing in the Peterborough Chase, but is formidable when he gets into a rhythm in front. There may be dangers at that end for him, but he is a smooth jumper and that could keep him in contention for a long way.
HITMAN may be another who goes well for Paul Nicholls and the race has cut up in his favour in the past for Dodging Bullets and POLITOLOGUE’s victories. The gallant grey may run again here, but Hitman looks the more likely to make an impact, as he has been progressing and is still only a six-year-old. It might not take a huge improvement from his Tingle Creek second to see him in the frame.
Last year’s winner PUT THE KETTLE ON now falls into this category. She has lot her unbeaten record and been beaten easily by her fellow mares so far this season. Perhaps last season’s efforts have left a mark.
An Early Selection – Hitman
Given there has been many a late absence in the Champion Chase in recent years, it would be a surprise if all of Shishkin, Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi turn up, especially in 100% working order. The man to usually take advantage when that happens is Paul Nicholls and while Greaneteen has the established form, HITMAN has the potential to do better. There may be a consideration that Aintree will be his main target, but his price is similar in the NRNB markets regardless and he could well hit the frame regardless of the quality of the field.