Dodging Bullets the winner of last years renewal should be back to defend his crown, while another previous winners Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy have bounced back to form this year, and last years Arkle winner Un De Sceaux is also in the line up. Below you will find my Preview and Tips for the 2016 Queen Mother Champion Chase, run over two miles at Cheltenham on the 16th of March. Make sure to visit Cheltenham Tips 2016 for more previews in the build up to the festival, and then the night before each days racing, I will post my preview and tips for the following day’s full card.
Un De Sceaux is currently trading at just 8/11 for the 2016 Champion Chase. It’s unusual for a horse to be odds on for a championship race, when he’d likely only start third favourite in a two mile chase against his own stablemates. I’d certainly have Douvan ahead of him, and would rate Vautour second favourite in that fantasy three horse race.
Un De Sceaux is certainly a very good horse, if not quite as good as some of the praise heaped upon him. He has also fallen in two of his seven chases, so is not bombproof in that department either, the latest spill was when still going well at Leopardstown over Christmas. He bounced back from that fall with a decent round of jumping at Ascot last time, beating former Champion Chase winner Sire De Grugy by five lengths.
Un De Sceaux travelled much the best and went away on the run in, without having everything thrown at him, so was value for a bit extra over the others. A basic analysis, using Sire De Grugy as a yardstick, would lead you to believe it was a really top performance, but as usual if you just use one horse to come to a conclusion about a race, you will be ignoring most of the evidence, and the presence of Sire De Grugy’s stablemate, a short head behind him in third casts some doubt over the form.
To believe Sire De Grugy was near his best that day, you have to also believe Traffic Fluide improved by over a stone on what he did as a novice chaser last season. Now unexposed horses can improve by that amount, but to do it first time back, after nine months off, when he went off at 50/1 on Betfair, so connections clearly didn’t think he was in the same league as his stable companion, is pretty unlikely, so rather than believe that happened, I’d go with the much more likely scenario, which is he maybe improved a few pound, and Sire De Grugy was nowhere near his best form, making Un De Sceaux’s admittedly easy victory, not look as solid as some have claimed.
Another point to consider with the favourite is that his Arkle victory at the festival last year, was probably his least impressive performance of the season. He won the race by six lengths but he looked all out to me, and it was a poor Arkle. He does seem to settle a bit better now though, which can only help.
Sprinter Sacre won the Arkle in 2012, and the Champion Chase by nineteen lengths in 2013, and at his best would beat Un De Sceaux without coming off the bridle. The problem is that while he’s still only ten, he was off the track for over a year after suffering from an irregular heartbeat when pulled up at Kempton in December 2013, and in three runs last season he looked a shadow of his former self.
Sprinter Sacre was hugely impressive when winning at Cheltenham on his seasonal debut this season however, tanking along like he used to do at his best, and having the race won a long way out. If you were to find any fault with the performance it’s that he looked like winning by a fence coming down the hill, by ended up being pushed right out, eventually beating Somersby by fourteen lengths.
Last time out at Kempton in December, Sprinter Sacre didn’t go through the race with the same zeal, but showed a new side to him, when he battled back to beat Sire De Grugy by three quarters of a length. I don’t think that horse is as good as he was, but then I don’t think Sprinter Sacre matched the form of his previous win either. His trainer has wisely given him a break after that, and if he can get him back in the same form as when he won at Cheltenham before Christmas, then that form, never mind his form of old, is as good as anything Un De Sceaux has done.
I’m not going to spend long on Vautour, I’ve already mentioned that I’d have him favourite against Un De Sceaux if they were both to run. That’s not going to happen though, but as we’ve seen with Faugheen already this week, things can change, and if anything was to happen to Un De Sceaux between now and March the 16th, then Vautour would be his obvious replacement. It does mean you’d be tying up money, without much chance of having a bet, but at 3/1 non runner no bet Vautour is massive. He’d surely only run if Un De Sceaux doesn’t, so would likely go off odds on if he was to line up. He certainly wouldn’t be any bigger than 5/4.
Dodging Bullets won the Champion Chase last season, but it was one of the worst renewals in recent memory and he was beaten on his comeback at Newbury recently. He’s a good consistent horse, but he’d need both Un De Sceaux and Sprinter Sacre to flop, if he’s to follow up last years victory, and while he has a good chance of placing, he’d surely be the worst dual winner ever if he could manage a win.
Special Tiara was third in the race last year, beaten just three lengths, after possibly setting too strong a pace. He was beaten under a length by Sire De Grugy in the Tingle Creek this season, and may well have won if the winner hadn’t hampered him jumping the last. That’s as good as he is though, and again barring the first two running well below from, he’ll be fighting for places come March.
Sire De Grugy won the Champion Chase in 2014, but after an injury he didn’t seem the same horse last season. He has bounced back a bit this year though, although as I’ve already mentioned I don’t think he’s as good as he was in the 2013/2014 season. His level now seems a bit lower, and like Dodging Bullets and Special Tiara it’s hard to see him winning the race.
Felix Yonger is now a ten year old, and has had plenty of experience chasing, but despite that, he does seem to be better than ever this year, winning at Navan before an impressive victory over Flemenstar at Punchestown last time. The margin of victory was just under two lengths, but the way he travelled and quickened to the front suggested he had extra in hand.
The going was heavy that day, but good ground is no hindrance to him, and I think that last win, when you add in extra for the visual impression, is just as good as anything Dodging Bullets or Special Tiara have done. He is not a certain runner though, as his trainer mentioned a possible tilt at a race in Japan after that victory, which would rule him out of Cheltenham. None of the rest appeal as likely winners.
Un De Sceaux is clearly the most likely winner, but he looks a little short in the market to me. If you were to back Vautor at 3/1 NRNB, and he does line up, then he’ll almost certainly be less than half that price, and if he doesn’t run you get your money back. He is an unlikely runner though, so for a bet I’m going to recommend Felix Yonger each way. I wouldn’t put anyone off Sprinter Sacre at 5/1, indeed I’ll likely back him at that myself, but at 16/1 NRNB I think Felix Yonger is the best value. His form is up there with horses shorter than him in the market, but unlike them he seems better than ever, and may have an even better performance in him yet.
2016 Champion Chase Tips
1 PT EW Felix Yonger at 16/1 NRNB and BOG with Bet 365