Champion Chase Preview
With Altior back cantering having been given a clean bill of health after a minor wind operation the openness of this race has somewhat diminished. Nicky Henderson’s eight year old has soundly beaten the likes of Fox Norton, Charbel, Cloudy Dream and last year’s Champion Chase winner Special Tiara and is clearly the one to beat presuming he turns up. Nicky Henderson has given his charge plenty of time to recover from what was described at the time as a routine procedure and has touted the Game Spirit at Newbury as a potential prep race, if he has one. 11/8 is not an appealing price though he should with no doubt end up in one or two Cheltenham accumulators!
A possible clash in the Game Spirit with impressive Kempton winner Waiting Patiently awaits Altior which would be a very intriguing affair. Malcolm Jefferson’s chaser, unbeaten over fences, took the 32Red Casino Chase at Kempton comfortably, looks to possess the speed to be effective back at two miles and will be helped by a likely strong pace, which will be alluded to later. He is definitely top class so the 16/1 is worth chancing that he adapts to the unique undulations of Cheltenham, he has handled similar at Sedgefield!
Talking of course form, Politologue, 4/1 at best for the Queen Mother, has made three visits to Cheltenham, unseating in a novice hurdle, beaten twenty lengths in the Coral Cup before being well held in the JLT last year. The last of the aforementioned runs gives some hope he goes well at the course but aligned with spring ground his chances somewhat diminish, having fluffed his lines at Cheltenham and Aintree last year. That said he is talented and unbeaten this season around two miles so if it comes up soft at the festival, one’s view may change.
The Irish challenge is shrouded in a little mystery with the top class Douvan, back from injury and has resumed training with more positive reports from his vet. It is a long, slow road back to fitness so it would be a brave punter to back him now @ 7/1. Min was starting to create his own ‘Douvan-esque’ air of invincibility before a lacklustre performance, when defeated by Simply Ned at Leopardstown, burst that bubble and he may want further now, though a strong pace and a change of riding tactics will suit. It is still hard to see how he could reverse fortunes with a fit Altior having been left toiling by seven lengths when they last met in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The mercurial Yorkhill is the last of Mullins’ realistic contenders and this free going sort could be well suited by dropping back to two miles but if he lines up, along with Special Tiara and Charbel, the ferocious pace that should ensue will surely set it up for something ridden with more restraint.
Defending Champion Special Tiara is the final Irish challenger and connections will be hoping the race cuts up again and the likes of Altior and Douvan, et al do not make it though, as previously mentioned, Charbel is a likely runner and Yorkhill a possible, this admirable, bold jumping eleven year old, in a tactical sense, may be up against it. Fox Norton, defeated a neck in this race last year by Special Tiara when the latter was allowed to dictate proceedings, is best suited by a little further though a strongly run two miles will suit. A line can be put through his King George effort, the Tizzard stable has been under a bit of a cloud since December, while he never looked happy around Sandown in the Tingle Creek. Cheltenham suits this son of Lando and with spring ground in his favour plus a small hope that stable form improves, he will not be too far away turning in with the 8/1 worth a small wager.
Antepost Value Bets:
Waiting Patiently – 1pt win @ 16/1 (available @ 25/1 on the Betfair Exchange)
Fox Norton – 1pt win @ 8/1 (available @ 44/1 on the Betfair Exchange)