Shishkin lines up in the Champion Chase on Wednesday
The most eagerly-anticipated clash of the Cheltenham Festival moved a step closer as ten horses were confirmed for the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Odds-on favourite Shishkin is set to renew rivalry with Energumene who finished a length behind him in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot. Energumene is joined by stable companion Chacun Pour Soi who was so impressive at Leopardstown. Henry de Bromhead has declared reigning champion Put The Kettle On and Envoi Allen. The field of ten is completed by Nube Negra, Funambule Sivola, Politologue, Editeur Du Gite and Battleoverdoyen.
Excitement builds for Champion Chase thriller
The pressure is starting to build as the Queen Mother Champion Chase approaches. As soon as Shishkin collared the front-running Energumene at Ascot there was anticipation for a thrilling rematch at Cheltenham. Nicky Henderson has brushed off concerns that he has not sent out a winner in the last fortnight. In fairness, only one of those horses started favourite and he, like most leading trainers, has been keeping his powder dry for Cheltenham.
Willie Mullins has been happy to go along with the general consensus that Cheltenham will probably favour Shishkin over Energumene. However, he has made no secret of the fact that he would put Chacun Pour Soi in a different class to his stable companion. With two previous winners in the field and last year’s runner-up Nube Negra, it has all the makings of a classic.
Henderson has taken Constitution Hill and Jonbon out of the Ballymore for which 18 were confirmed. Remarkably ten of them are trained by Willie Mullins who is clearly waiting until the last possible moment to decide which of his novices will contest the Supreme.
Options still open for Galopin Des Champs
It is a similar story in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. Galopin Des Champs is expected to run in the Turners, as is the Venetia Williams-trained L’Homme Presse, but both horses still have the three-mile option. The big two from Britain have stood their ground, Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor, and Nicky Henderson has left in the promising Dusart.
56 horses remain in the Coral Cup where several fancied runners are looking likely to miss out. These include impressive Ascot winner Good Risk At All and Lanzarote Hurdle winner Cobblers Dream, numbered 35 and 39 respectively with only 26 set to go to post. Camprond and State Man are now guaranteed a place in the line-up, should their trainers decide to run here.
Tiger Roll features in a field of 21 for the Cross Country Chase. It is expected to be a last racecourse appearance for the dual Grand National winner. If successful, he will equal the record of six Cheltenham Festival victories held by Quevega. The high profile JP McManus-owned duo of Easysland and Prengarde have been declared along with former Welsh Grand National winner Potters Corner.
Brave Seasca was the most notable withdrawal from the Grand Annual Handicap Chase. He is still in the Arkle Trophy on the opening day. 27 horses remain, headed by last year’s winner Sky Pirate. There were no major surprises in the Champion Bumper where even money favourite Facile Vega is one of seven for eleven-times winning trainer Willie Mullins. Gordon Elliott’s highly rated American Mike could be joined by stable companion Music Drive. British-trained runners include Our Jester, Poetic Music and Mullenbeg.