Tom Thurgood looks at all nine conformations in contention for this year's Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase ahead of the two-mile spectacular at next week's Cheltenham Festival. Enjoy every moment live on Racing TV!
Trainer: Willie Mullins Festival form: F3 Odds: 10-1
While a safe jumper, he doesn’t genuinely convince over the minimum trip and seems to lacking some agility and speed over his obstacles at the distance. He made an unfortunate error two-out when turned over as 1-4F at the Dublin Racing Festival last time but there didn’t look an obvious excuse to that performance and he was workmanlike and needed the line in a Clonmel Oil which hasn’t worked out well on his seasonal return. Currently, he is a shorter price for the Ryanair Chase and we may see him over the longer trip at Cheltenham though, if he does line up in this, the likely strong pace could benefit him and bring his stamina at the trip into play.
Trainer: Henry de Bromhead Festival form: B3 Odds: 66-1
He was a well-beaten second to Blue Lord in the Dublin Chase last time, while he had to somewhat hold on when again getting an unchallenged lead when landing the Fortria Chase on his return at Navan. He’s fairly consistent and likeable but he’s more potent in graded small-field chases and this would be his toughest assignment to date.
Trainer: Gary Moore Festival form: 4 Odds: 6-1
He's made the running for all seven of his career victories and was held up on his underwhelming return before all-the-way wins at Kempton and at Cheltenham last time, looking better the further he went on the first occasion and showing admirable resolution in the closing stages under an excellent ride in the Clarence House Chase - the leading form line heading into this race. Jockey Niall Houlihan will not be able to use his claim in this championship race and Editeur Du Gite is likely to face sterner competition for the lead this time, but three of the past six winners have made the running (or most) to win (Politologue, Put The Kettle On and Special Tiara) and he is still improving. You’d fancy his chances a bit more if this was on the New Course rather than the Old but I’d have him in the first two and he makes some each-way appeal at 6-1.
Trainer: Alan King Festival form: 651 Odds: 7-4
He's never finished outside the first two in eight completed starts over fences (six wins), while he was impressive in the Tingle Creek on his return and he could feasibly get another strong pace to travel behind here. He was just a bit out of his ground in the Clarence House Chase last time with rider Tom Cannon perhaps keeping closer tabs on Energumene than the winner Editeur Du Gite, but he showed good speed to get into contention and was only just pipped at the line from a disadvantageous position. He’s likely to improve from that and Arkle winners from the previous season have an excellent record in the race this century (seven winners and three runners-up from 12 runners to attempt the double). He holds a leading chance.
Trainer: Willie Mullins Festival form: 1 Odds: 15-8
The title-holder is a strong traveller and won well last year despite charting a wide course throughout but it’s not ungracious to say that race fell apart after the mid-race departures of Shishkin and Chacun Pour Soi, while his form claims this year do not match up with Edwardstone and Editeur Du Gite after victory from the front when unchallenged as 1-9F in the Hilly Way at Cork and then finishing third – beaten nearly seven lengths - in the Clarence House. He can get closer this time, but this renewal looks better than last year’s and his principal rivals look more progressive.
Trainer: Venetia Williams Festival form: 2 Odds: 40-1
Second at a big price in this race last year, connections would have been thrilled with that but the Champion Chase looks more competitive this year and he would ideally want quicker ground to be seen to best effect. He’s been raised 4lb for victory in the Denman Chase last time on very quick ground (also won the race last year), but despite that is still the lowest-rated in here of those runners assigned a BHA rating.
Trainer: Paul Nicholls Festival form: 44 Odds: 33-1
He was well below par when flopping at heavy odds-on at Newbury last time, but his trainer has pointed out that Greaneteen was beaten a similar distance in the Game Spirit two seasons ago before being beaten just a few lengths in the Champion Chase that year. Anyway, his run last time was the outlier of his season so far after an excellent return success in the Haldon Gold Cup off a big weight and then a creditable second behind Edwardstone in the Tingle Creek. The Grade One Celebration Chase at Sandown is the race where he truly excels and he rates an unlikely winner here, but a finish in the first four or five is feasible.
Trainer: Dan Skelton Festival form: 32 Odds: 20-1
Narrowly denied by Put The Kettle On in this race two years ago when arguably unlucky when stumbling after the last, he has performed to a similar level in his starts since according to official ratings and the quicker the ground the better his chance. He has two commanding Grade Two wins and a narrow Champion Chase defeat from three runs over fences on the Old Course and a strong pace to aim at should suit this keen racer. This Champion Chase undoubtedly looks stronger than the 2021 renewal but he’s not one to readily dismiss despite his generous odds and could be in and around the places.
EDWARDSTONE is fancied to get the job done in the big day-two highlight at Cheltenham.
Arkle winners have a phenomenal record when trying to follow up in the Champion Chase the following season this century (seven winners and three runners-up from 12 runners to attempt the double) and Edwardstone holds the best form claims in senior company this term thanks to commanding Tingle Creek success on his return followed by a runner-up spot in the Clarence House Chase last time. You can also argue that he was the best horse on the day and was unlucky to meet defeat.
That's not to discredit Clarence House winner Editeur Du Gite at all, who rallied bravely to the line, and he is an improving chaser who is fancied to go well. Yet switching from the New Course to the Old Course, likely stiffer competition for the early lead and probable rider Niall Houlihan unable to use his claims are all niggles. I think he can still pip Energumene to second, though, especially at the prices.
🐴 STATS AND TRENDS FOR ALL 28 RACES
🐴 A SUPER STATISTIC FOR EVERY RACE
📅 I WAS THERE: EIGHT MEMORABLE FESTIVAL DAYS
✍ DAN OVERALL STUDIES THE 9 HANDICAPS
✍ 11 THINGS WE LEARNT WHEN THE WEIGHTS WERE RELEASED
😲 WINNERS WHO HIT 999-1 IN-RUNNING AND EPIC LOSERS
🐴 BETTING OFFERS AND FREE BETS
✍ CHAMPION HURDLE RUNNER-BY-RUNNER GUIDE
✍ CHAMPION CHASE RUNNER-BY-RUNNER GUIDE
✍ GOLD CUP RUNNER-BY-RUNNER GUIDE
📺 WATCH: GORDON ELLIOTT ON HIS LEADING CONTENDERS
📺 WATCH: WILLIE MULLINS ON HIS LEADING CONTENDERS
📺 WATCH: MARTIN PIPE - RACING GREAT
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