x5 Racing Post NAPs Champion Paul Jacobs previews the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham Festival.
To my eyes there has never been a more exciting scene setting moment at the festival than the climax to the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup when Kauto Star, Denman and Long Run jumped the penultimate fence as one. Many are hoping we could get the same scenario this year in the Champion Chase. Can Messrs Altior, Defi Du Seuil and Chacum Pour Soi do it? Wouldn’t that be a sight to behold!
But the fact of the matter is we can readily pick holes in each of the big three for the speed championship this year. That could open up at least one spot for an outsider to fill the frame, more of that later.
Queen Mother Champion Chase Betting Odds
Let’s start with the outstanding Altior who on my private figures has only one pier to look up – Min. However, the last named achieved that figure over two and a half miles in the 2019 Melling Chase.
So how do we unravel the conundrum that is Altior? Is he still as good as his peak year in 2018/19? Did that Ascot run irreparably tear the heart out of him? And does his unblemished Cheltenham record hide a quirk or two?
Let’s get down to brass tacks and look at his record at the Festival which offers remarkable at face value.
Twice Charbel led Altior down to the second last, firstly in the 2016 Supreme Novices and then when coming to grief in the 2017 Arkle.
On the first occasion, Altior travelled like a dream and readily disposed of a vintage field which included Min (2nd), Buveur D’Air (3rd), Supasundae (7th), Petit Mouchoir (8th) and Bellshill (13th).
But he a flat spot on his three subsequent starts over fences. He niggled along from the top of the hill when Charbel got him at it in the Arkle and even more pronounced in this race in both 2018 and 2019.
It is that downhill run that seemingly catches the great horse out. If he were to make a mistake at the third last then that would make his task very nearly impossible. However, each time his jumping at that obstacle has been clean and tidy.
The uphill finish is a huge plus for the 10-year-old. That is when he has found another gear with that potent mix of the ability to quicken and then stay on strongly.
However, the key to his chance of entering the history books clearly lays with the pace in the race.
It is noticeable if you watch the 2018 renewal again. After a solid gallop for the opening mile, Douvan came a cropper at the open ditch at the top of the hill and the pace dropped to an almost funereal level. This enabled the outpaced Ordinary World to cruise up on the outside of the leaders two out on the bridle.
And that is the key to Altior; an out and out pace from pillar to post is pivotal to his chances here. A stop start gallop seems to put more pressure on his jumping leading to Nico having to cajole him along from some way out.
At pace, he jumps well if a little bit big, but his immense scope allows him to stand off at speed and his athleticism to get in close and pop away.
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Queen Mother Champion Chase Runners
I suspect Paul Nicholls will want to see Politologue race closer to the pace this time. Most of his best performances have come when leading or pressing.
He in turn could get a nice lead from Dynamite Dollars, if he runs here in preference to the Ryanair. The last named is a much better animal if able to get a clear sight of his obstacles and use his immense stride to stretch his rivals.
And should Un De Sceaux take up the speed challenge as well, which he will only do on genuinely soft ground, then we could have a real speed race on. Outsider Bun Doran is the other speed element in the entry.
Chacun Pour Soi has been tenderly campaigned by Willie Mullins. He is a hugely fragile animal, but there is little doubt he has a huge engine inside.
Not given a hard time when second to A Plus Tard on his comeback, he had previously dismissed Defi Du Seuil with disdain at the Punchestown Festival.
However, Chacun Pour Soi arrived there as fresh as daisy while Defi Du Seuil endured a long, hard season thanks to running five times since November. His fencing was also quite sticky at Punchestown including a bad mistake five out.
No one has tested Chacun Pour Soi in the majority of his races; run only eight times under rules. When Paul Townend got serious with him for the first time in his chasing schedule, he dug deep and recorded a career best in the Dublin Chase. However, it remains to be seen how the son of Policy Maker comes out of that race. He got into a real battle with stable mate Min from some way out and looked tired passing the line.
You could also argue that he would be better served by a flatter finish. This is where his naturally high cruising speed would come more into the equation. This is especially important as it will be his first ever experience of the Prestbury Park hill.
Queen Mother Champion Chase Betting Tips
Defi Du Seuil has kept a high level of form over two miles on his last four starts but has only really improved 5lbs in the past 12 months on my figures.
Like Altior he has always looked best served when coming off a solid gallop. The best example of that coming when Un De Sceaux set the Tingle Creek up perfectly for him in December. If the field dawdle, then like Altior, he is sure to hit a flat spot before his guaranteed staying prowess comes into play late on.
It’s hard to see each of the three main protagonists running to their highest levels here. It rarely happens in such a scenario. If we get a field of eight or more it could open up the likelihood of an outsider hitting the frame.
To my eyes that spot could go to Politologue who has a tremendous record at Prestbury Park. Ridden correctly, up with the pace, but not necessarily leading, and using that devouring stride; there are far worse e/w plays than this 33/1 shot.
Queen Mother Champion Chase Prediction
In Conclusion – There is no denying this is a fascinating event with speed the key. In a fast run race ALTIOR has to be the pick. The Newbury run suggests he’s retain both his enthusiasm and talent following his undercooked effort at Ascot.
I’m sure that Chacun Pour Soi and Defi De Seuil will both trade close to odds on in the run. The former had a desperately hard race last time out and may not want a battle up the hill. To my eyes Defi has been slightly flattered by his last two runs with both races set up for him. Politologue is the best outsider capable of hitting the three.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase is on 11th March 2020 at 15:30.
If you wish to place a bet on the Queen Mother Champion Chase you can do so by clicking on the odds of one of our specially chosen bookmaker partners in this very article. Or you can head over to our betting odds pages to see the odds for the Queen Mother Champion Chase and more.
4/11 favourites Altior won the 2019 Queen Mother Champion Chase and will be looking to defend his crown this year. Politologue, Sceau Royal, Hell’s Kitchen and Min round up the top 5.
Badsworth Boy is the most successful horse in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The gelding won the race three times in the following years: 1983, 1984, 1985.
Both Pat Taafe and Barry Geraghty have won the most Champion Chases in Cheltenham history with five wins apiece.
Pat Taafe won in 1960 and 1961 riding Fortria, in 1964 riding Ben Stack, with Flying Bolt in 1966 and Straight Fort in 1970.
Barry Geraghty’s win have come with Moscow Flyer in 2003 and 2005, Big Zeb in 2010, Finian’s Rainbow in 2012 and finally Sprinter Sacre in 2013.
The prize purse in 2019 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase was £400,000. The winner received £225,880.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase is run on the Old Course at Cheltenham and is over a distance of 2 miles which is 1 mile and 7 furlongs.
The horses have thirteen fences to clear in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
The competing horses must be five-years-old and up and weigh 11st 10lbs with a 7lb allowance for mares.
If you wish to Live Stream the Queen Mother Champion Chase or any other race at Cheltenham festival this year, you can do so by opening an account with one of our many special bookmaker partners. Head over to our free bets page and take advantage of an incredible sign-up offer so you can watch the race while you bet.