Following the release of the entries for the two-mile showpiece, Harry Allwood has put the leading protagonists under the microscope plus reveals who he is siding with at this stage.
Won by the likes of Moscow Flyer, Master Minded, Sprinter Sacre and Altior over the past two decades, who will add their name to such an illustrious roll of honour in March?
The last-named has been entered for the Grade One contest again this year - as well as the Ryanair - and will be bidding to become just the second three-time winner of the race and emulate Badsworth Boy, winner of the Champion Chase in 1983, 1984 and 1985.
For an in-depth guide to the stats and trends for this year's contest, click on the link below.
The 2020 contest looked set to be one of the races of the week at the Cheltenham Festival last year, with Chacun Pour Soi, Defi Du Seuil and Altior all set to clash.
However, setbacks at the eleventh hour ruled Chacun Pour Soi and Altior out, and Defi Du Seuil, sent off the 2-5 favourite, failed to show anything like his best form.
Chacun Pour Soi heads the betting at 6-4 for this year's renewal, with Altior a best-priced 12-1, and Defi Du Seuil a general 20-1 chance - who would have predicted that this time last year!
Below is a guide to the ten leading contenders, as well as a suggested ante-post bet.
CHACUN POUR SOI
Trainer: Willie Mullins. Best odds: 6-4.
Three-time Grade One winner who, judged on some of the performances he has produced over the past couple of seasons, could well prove hard to beat if showing his best form in March.
Proved his wellbeing when defeating Notebook and Put The Kettle On with ease at Leopardstown last time out where he travelled well throughout the race, and probably deserves to be the 6-4 favourite following that performance.
There are a couple of negatives though, the main one being that we have only seen him in action six times since 2016, so he is clearly fragile, as well as being hugely talented.
He has also never run at Cheltenham before, so will need to prove he handles the track and, rather surprisingly, Willie Mullins has never won the Champion Chase.
With a couple of doubts and the unattractive odds on offer, I would rather look elsewhere for a bet at this stage.
Trainer: Paul Nicholls. Best odds: 7-1.
Finished runner-up in this contest in 2019 before going one better, and causing a minor upset, in 2020. However, he will have Altior and Chacun Pour Soi to contend with this time, and his task was made easier last year with Defi Du Seuil running below-par.
It was still hard not to be impressed with the manner of his victory though, and he looked as good as ever, despite now being a ten-year-old, when winning the Tingle Creek on his seasonal debut.
It is probably fair to say that he would struggle to beat Chacun Pour Soi and Altior – who he has been defeated by three times – at their peak.
There are negatives surrounding those two rivals though, and he is still a four-time Grade One winner plus one of the highest rated among the entries.
It is arguable that he should be shorter than 7-1 given there aren’t many negatives for him, and looks sure to give it his best shot again.
Trainer: Nicky Henderson. Best odds: 12-1.
Is the dual winner of the Champion Chase as good as he once was? That is the key question, as the vibes before his seasonal debut in December were that he was not showing as much of his old sparkle at home, and he failed to go much zest throughout the race.
It is hard to rule a horse of his calibre off following one run though, and he did have a possible excuse following that performance, having reportedly scoped dirty afterwards.
He is a four-time Cheltenham Festival winner, has only been defeated twice from 22 starts over obstacles and has been victorious ten times at Grade One level. That certainly makes the 12-1 on offer look tempting.
However, he is now an 11-year-old, has not shown his best form since being defeated by Cyrname at Ascot in 2019 and has a bit to prove now.
Connections may also decide to step their superstar up in trip and tilt instead at the Ryanair Chase.
Trainer: Dan Skelton. Best odds: 12-1.
Showed promise without setting the world alight in novice chases last season but took his form to a new level when defeating Altior in the Desert Orchid over Christmas.
There was no denying how impressive he was, but was that performance as good as it looked? His rivals in behind all had excuses, although he travelled like the winner throughout the contest and put the race to bed with ease, so it may just be that he has improved bundles since last season.
On the bare form, it makes him a leading contender for this contest, and Dan Skelton has said his seven-year-old is set to head straight to the Festival, which is no concern as he appears best fresh.
He also proved over hurdles that he handles Cheltenham and he ought to have more to offer given that he is still lightly-raced and unexposed over fences, but it’s likely he will need improve again to lower the colours of Chacun Pour Soi and Politologue.
PUT THE KETTLE ON
Trainer: Henry de Bromhead. Best odds: 16-1.
Last year’s Arkle winner who is three from three at Cheltenham and has produced her career-bests at the track, plus has also won seven of her past 11 starts.
Showed a good attitude when defeating Duc Des Genievres in the Shloer Chase but the form of that race, and her victory in the Arkle, is not as strong as what some of her rivals have achieved. She was also no match for Chacun Pour Soi and Notebook at Leopardstown last time out.
She will need a couple of underperform to be in with a chance of winning here, although it is hard to knock her attitude and her jumping will stand her in good stead.
Trainer: Ruth Jefferson. Best odds: 20-1.
High-class chaser who has been plagued by injuries during his career, which has led to him enduring lengthy absences on numerous occasions.
There is no doubting his ability when he does get to the racetrack though and reappeared with a decent effort in the King George where he stayed on strongly from an unpromising position to finish second.
It is hard to know what his best trip is as he also finished third over two miles in the Tingle Creek last season, but his sole Grade One victory has come over 2m5f.
Ruth Jefferson has not decided on a Cheltenham Festival target for her stable star yet – he also holds entries in the Ryanair Chase and Gold Cup – and is keeping options open.
If I had to say, I think he should run in the Ryanair, given that we know he has the stamina for that contest. If he does turn up in the Champion Chase, and the ground is soft or worse, then he would have to enter calculations, despite being another who needs to prove they handle the track.
Trainer: Henry de Bromhead. Best odds: 20-1.
Won his first four starts over fences last season, which included two Grade One victories, before running below-par in the Arkle which was the second time he has disappointed at the Cheltenham Festival.
Returned with a career best on his seasonal debut when defeating Arkle runner-up Fakir D’oudairies with ease, and probably bettered that form when second behind Chacun Pour Soi, despite being defeated, last time out.
Has age on his side and has clearly progressed again this season. However, it’s hard to see him reversing form with Chacun Pour Soi at Cheltenham, unless that rival fails to fire, and it is concerning his two below-par efforts over the past couple of years have been at Prestbury Park.
DEFI DU SEUIL
Trainer: Philip Hobbs. Best odds: 20-1.
Seven-time Grade One winner who improved again to win the Tingle Creek and Clarence House Chase last season before running disappointingly in this race last year.
No excuse emerged after that poor run, and he was again below his brilliant best when pulled up in the Shloer Chase on his return where there was nothing amiss afterwards, although he jumped exuberantly in the early stages of the race and the combination of those exertions plus the testing conditions probably took their toll late on given it was his first run of the season.
We know he is better than those two runs, but it is concerning to see him produce those two efforts in succession.
It is too early to dismiss him yet as he is only an eight-year-old, and he certainly isn’t a 20-1 chance on his best form. He holds an entry in the Clarence House Chase this month where he could take on Politologue, and he will be a lot shorter for the Champion Chase if he bounces back in that contest.
Trainer: Harry Whittington. Best odds: 25-1.
His chance will all depend on the ground conditions, and should the going be described as no worse than good to soft, then a case can be made for him.
Harry Whittington’s charge has a high cruising speed and has won three times over fences on good to soft ground in impressive style, including on his return at Cheltenham this season.
His effort in the Tingle Creek proved that he is a genuine Grade One performer, especially as that run came on ground on softer than ideal, and his stable were not firing at that point – 0 from 24 in December - plus the ground was again soft at Kempton, so his run in the Desert Orchid is probably best ignored.
Has more to give and does not have too much to find with some of the leading protagonists plus this race will have been the plan all season.
Trainer: Paul Nicholls. Best odds: 25-1.
A youngster who is held in high regard by Paul Nicholls and has been improving with every start over the past couple of seasons.
Proved he is capable of being competitive at Grade One level when runner-up in the Tingle Creek last time out, and that was only his sixth start over fences.
Lots to like about this former French recruit who has surely not reached the peak of his potential yet.
However, he still needs to take another step forward to win this and Nicholls, who has won the Champion Chase six times, looks to hold stronger claims with Politologue.
Best of the rest:
Rishi Persad, Dave Nevison and Timeform jumps editor Dan Barber look ahead to the 2021 Champion Chase
Impressive Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner Chatham Street Lad is an interesting entry, although he is likely to take on Envoi Allen in the Marsh Novices' Chase.
2019 Champion Chase third Sceau Royal also holds an entry, as does 2020 Ryanair Chase winneer Min, but he is expected to bid to defend his title in that contest.
The rest are chalked up at 40-1 or bigger, which includes three others trained by Willie Mullins - Cash Back, Cilaos Emery and Tornado Flyer.
Harry Allwood's suggested ante-post bet:
If he shows his best, and handles Cheltenham, then Chacun Pour Soi is sure to prove hard to beat here.
As mentioned above, there are a couple of negatives though, and at the prices, I would rather back one of his rivals each-way.
The safest bet is arguably last year's winner Politologue who looks at the peak of his powers, and it is hard to find many negatives against him, other that the fact he will need a career best to defeat the ante-post favourite, and also Altior, should he bounce back to his best.
Nicky Henderson's superstar does have a bit to prove now though, and I don't think he is quite as good as he once was, judged on his performance in the Desert Orchid and also the vibes from Nicky Henderson, and perhaps age is now catching up with the brilliant two-mile chaser.
I keep getting drawn to the 20-1 available for Defi Du Seuil, as there is no way he will go off at that price if he shows his true colours in the Clarence House Chase this month, and he has a strong chance on his best form.
Like Altior, he also has plenty to prove, and I would rather see how he fares next time out before considering investing.
With all those factors taken into consideration, I have pinned my hopes to POLITOLOGUE as it is hard to see him out of the first three, and he seems sure to show his true colours, so is worth siding with each-way.Fancy getting your hands on newly-designed Racing TV Gilet for FREE? Click here for more details!
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