As the previews keep coming we reach another Championship race which takes place on Day Two of The Festival which is of course the Queen Mother Champion Chase. A Grade 1 affair contested over two miles which is seen as one of the most prestigious races within the National Hunt calendar. The race has seen some of the greatest National Hunt horses to grace the turf participate and collect victory including the likes of Sprinter Sacre, Master Minded and Moscow Flyer. It’s a horse that looks ever likely to join that elite list who heads affairs this time around and that’s last year’s winner Altior. Sit back and enjoy my 2019 Champion Chase Preview.
(Class 1) (Grade 1) (2m)
Wednesday 13th March 2019
Day Two of The Festival revolves all around the Champion Chase, a Grade 1 affair that’s contested over two miles which is headed by the perilous Altior (4/11) for Nicky Henderson. Winner of this race last year when getting the better of Min, Altior comes into this contest on the back of another perfect season having won the Clarence House, Desert Orchid Chase and Tingle Creek by an aggregate of 30 lengths. He dismantled the opposition in those particular affairs with only Un De Sceaux giving him the slightest bit to think about when they faced off in the Tingle Creek. He has a perfect record at Cheltenham having won the Supreme in 2016, Arkle in 2017 and Champion Chase in 2018. He is the banker of The Festival which reflects in his price of 4/11.
There’s a whole host of Willie Mullins contenders stacking up behind the jolly in the betting and these come in the form of Footpad (10/1), Min (6/1) and Un De Sceaux (12/1). Footpad won the Arkle last season having looked a transformed animal when sent over the larger obstacles however it’s not gone to plan this time around. He’s suffered two overreaches in his last two starts the most latest when getting turned over by Simply Ned at the Dublin Racing Festival. It remains to be seen whether he takes his place here or the Ryanair however he’s a general 6/1 chance at the moment should he take this particular contest. Min also sits prominently in the market for the Ryanair with many believing that is his most likely destination, he’s come up against Altior at two festivals now and being soundly beaten into second both times, in the Supreme in 2016 and in this particular contest last year. Unlike Footpad though he has had a great season this year claiming two Grade 1’s and rightfully finds himself as the second favourite should he take his place here. The most unlikely of this Mullins trio to turn up here looks to be Un De Sceaux, despite being the only horse to give Altior any form of race this season he looks destined to go back and try and retain his Ryanair crown from 2017.
The remainder of the line up looks to be headed by Alan King’s Sceau Royal (14/1) who started his campaign this season with a smart victory here in November. Since then he disappointed in the Tingle Creek and was just denied in a Grade 2 over hurdles last time by Grand Sancy. He’ll be a popular each way bet with punters here should the Mullins big guns be rerouted. I stated in the Mares preview that Lady Buttons (33/1) is likely to turn up here as connections have been quite vocal on her having a crack at the Champion Chase. The Phillip Kirby trained 9 year old is currently a best priced 33/1 in the betting. Saint Calvados (40/1) and Castlegrace Paddy (50/1) are others to note who look to take their places in the line up.
“It would be the biggest upset of The Festival should Altior not collect victory here and do it in a commanding style. Even more so with the doubt hanging over all of the Mullins runners actually turning up. If it is the case of none of the Mullins big guns turning up Sceau Royal looks the obvious one to chase the Henderson powerhouse home. If she does turn up here I think Lady Buttons can run a solid race, maybe picking off a few late on and grabbing a place.”
1st: ALTIOR (4/11)
2nd: MIN (4/1)
3rd: SCEAU ROYAL (14/1)
EACH WAY: SCEAU ROYAL (14/1)
(Considering that a lot of the market principals are likely to be rerouted else where the 14/1 you can get about Sceau Royal might turn out to be rather sizeable. A horse that has strong course form having won here well in November and has proven form at a strong level.)