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Queen Mother Champion Chase – Race Preview
The feature race on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival is the Queen Mother Champion Chase. A Grade 1 contest run over two miles with 12 fences jumped, the Champion Chase is the leading minimum-distance chase in the National Hunt calendar and has been won over the years by a number of high-class horses such as One Man and Moscow Flyer. This year’s renewal sees 10 horses set to take their chances and add their name to this prestigious list.
The current favourite is Un De Sceaux trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins. An impressive winner of the Arkle Trophy at last year’s Festival, Un De Sceaux comes into Wednesday’s race on the back of three runs this season – two seamless victories and a fall when travelling well at Leopardstown over Christmas. A hot favourite, he will take all the beating but he will not have it all his own way, as three former winners of the Champion Chase are also in this year’s line up.
Leading these three past winners is the Nicky Henderson trained Sprinter Sacre. Having won the Champion Chase in 2013, he was then diagnosed with an erratic heart beat and there was speculation that his racing career was over after he was pulled up in last season’s race. However, two victories this season – a 14 length victory in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November and a hard-fought win over Sire de Grugy in the Desert Orchid Stakes at Kempton Park in December, have seen him back near to his best.
Sire de Grugy won the race in 2014 but has struggled for form since that victory, with only two victories from eight subsequent races. Now at the age of 10 and with problems with his feet, it’s unlikely that Sire de Grugy retains enough ability to win this years’s race, especially with question marks over his form on good ground.
The Paul Nicholls trained Dodging Bullets won last year’s Champion Chase but following issues, in which it was thought he may miss the whole season, he comes into this year’s race with only the one run so far this season. With the lack of a good preparation, it’s likely that he will struggle to retain his crown.
Sizing Granite enjoyed an excellent novice campaign last season, culminating in success in a Grade 1 novice event at Aintree in April. He has struggled this season however, including a disappointing effort when last seen at Leopardstown over the festive period. He has since changed stables and joined the Colm Murphy yard with Murphy saying he is now in good form and that the Leopardstown run can be put down to the ground. With better ground expected at Cheltenham, Sizing Granite could be set to run a big race.
Un De Sceaux is the 1.80 (4/5) favourite for Wednesday’s race with Sprinter Sacre the current second favourite at 6 (5/1). Dodging Bullets is 13 (12/1), Sire de Grugy is 15 (14/1) and Sizing Granite 34 (33/1). The horse racing betting tip for Wednesday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase is Sizing Granite each-way at 34 (33/1).
By: Scott McGlynn