If the Queen Mother Champion Chase of 2020 had a disappointing turnout after two of the main contenders were last-minute withdrawals, then this year’s renewal may just make up for it.
Early closing entries for the big two-mile steeplechase at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival include eight past winners at the famous British National Hunt meet. A total of 31 horses, including 14 trained in Ireland have an engagement in the Champion Chase.
It is common at this initial stage for owners and trainers to make multiple entries, so they could turn up in other races like the Ryanair Chase and Gold Cup. With almost half of the horses being previously successful at this track, past Cheltenham results are there for bettors to study before making their picks. Who could capture the Champion Chase? Defending champ Politologue looks up against it in what should be a deeper race to repeat his success in a depleted field from last season.
The popular grey has never beaten beloved veteran and long-time rival Altior, but Nicky Henderson’s waning star is no longer the force of old. That has led to an entry in the Ryanair Chase after his defeat by Nube Negra in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park during the Christmas period.
Politologue trainer Paul Nicholls has three other horses entered in the Champion Chase. Magic Saint has won a handicap around Cheltenham before, while Irish import Duc Des Genievres is still looking to recapture the form that brought Festival success in the 2019 Arkle Challenge Trophy.
Greaneteen, who couldn’t match Politologue in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December, completes the possible Nicholls runners. Irish master trainer Willie Mullins has found Champion Chase glory elusive, but Chacun Pour Soi will be looking to make up for a late problem that ruled him out of last season’s Festival.
He is one of five engaged from the Closutton stables. Mullins also has defending Ryanair Chase champ Min, Tornado Flyer, Cash Back and Cilaos Emery in the Champion Chase. Each of those last three Irish raiders has something to prove at Cheltenham. Tornado Flyer came fifth in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Festival last year, while Cilaos Emery didn’t justify being supplemented for the Champion Hurdle when finishing fourth and Cash Back fell in the Arkle.
Leading Irish owner JP McManus has three possible Champion Chase runners and is still searching for a first win in the race. Of those, Joseph O’Brien trains two but Le Richebourg and Fakir D’Oudairies haven’t reproduced their best form this season.
The same can be said of dual Cheltenham Festival winner Defi Du Seuil, who was a red-hot favourite to win the Champion Chase last year. Three listless displays on the bounce from Philip Hobbs’ charge are a worry.
Henry De Bromhead could have a good hand for the race. His mare Put The Kettle On has won over the Champion Chase course and distance at Cheltenham three times before but has something to find with stable companion Notebook and Chacun Pour Soi on her last run.