As the ultimate test of jumping at top speed, the Queen Mother Champion Chase is a thrilling race. This year it is made all the more exhilarating by a stellar cast of entries.
Running over the short 2m trip at break-neck speed means winners need to have a sound jumping technique to go along with their basic turn of foot. All it takes is one error to end a hopeful’s chances.
That combination means backing market-leader Un De Sceaux at 4/6 could be a risky strategy. Yet another Willie Mullins 18hotpot, the eight-year-old has pace in abundance, but his jumping has always been questioned.
When heading off the 4/6 favourite for the Arkle at last year’s Festival, the common theory associated with Un De Sceaux was “he’ll win with a clear round”. A year later nothing appears to have changed.
Indeed his record backs up the theory, with his only two defeats in 16 races under rules coming when falling.
The last of those came in his seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown in December, but a five-length victory in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot last time out was a return to the norm. If his jumping doesn’t deter you from the short price, then he’s the most likely winner.
However, should the slim chance of a tip up have you looking elsewhere in the market, then there’s plenty of high-class options.
Sprinter Sacre, a two-time Festival winner and the 2013 Champion Chase victor, stands as Un De Sceaux’s closest competitor in the market at 9/2.
Nicky Henderson’s star is 10-years-old now, which trend followers will say is a negative on his chances as only one Champion Chase winner since 1998 has been older than nine.
But if anything can defy that slight it’s Sprinter Sacre, who has returned to something near his best with wins in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham and Kempton’s Desert Orchid at Christmas. In a career glittering with impressive performances, overhauling Un De Sceaux would surely rate as one of his best.
Ladbrokes are 11/1 bar those at the time of writing, but the huge gap shouldn’t dissuade potential punters.
Of the chasing pack, Henry De Bromhead’s 14/1-shot Special Tiara rates as perhaps the most interesting as an each-way chance.
With his front-running style the nine-year-old is set to give Un De Sceaux a run for his money up front and that tactic – albeit without the Mullins fancy in the field – landed him 3rd place in this race at 18/1 last year.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.