This year’s SportingBet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase, which will take place on Wednesday 14th March 2012 at 15:20, has a strong look to the field with 2010 winner Big Zeb and defending champion Sizing Europe amongst the horses set to line up. We’ll be looking elsewhere though, in our quest to find the 2012 winner…
When attempting to find the winner of the the Queen Mother Champion Chase, it’s usually a good idea to look at the previous year’s Arkle winner, as ten of the last twelve Arkle winners finished either first or second in the following year’s Champion Chase. This year will be different though, as Captain Chris – the 2011 Arkle hero – doesn’t have an entry in the race.
But despite that spanner being thrown into the Queen Mother Champion Chase works, we needn’t look too far away from last year’s Cheltenham Festival form, as 20 of the last 27 Champion Chase winners had been placed in Cheltenham Festival race prior to their victory, with 13 of the last 19 having won a race at the Festival prior to success.
It seems that there are no tremendously strong age trends to emerge from past Champion Chasers, but the age of the winner does appear to be linked to the breeding. In the past ten years, 20 horses aged between five and seven have run in the race, with four having won; a total of 81 horses aged eight or older have run, producing six winners.
All four of the younger horses were French bred, while all six of the older horses were Irish bred. We can usually discount horses aged older than nine, as just three horses aged ten or greater have won in the last 25 Champion Chase renewals – the last coming back in 2005 (Moscow Flyer) – but it seems likely that if a younger horse is going to win, it’s probably going to have to be a French bred.
There are a few really reliable trial races for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham too – eight of the last ten winners ran in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, for example, while the Tied Cottage Chase has also featured four winners in the last decade.
With regard to specialist trainers, Paul Nicholls knows a thing or two about winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase, having saddled four winners (and five placed horses) since 1999, most notably dual Champion Chaser Master Minded.
Heading the betting in the 2012 Queen Mother Champion Chase is understandably Sizing Europe, at a best price of 2.25 with race sponsors, SportingBet. Last year’s winner by five lengths over 2010 Champion Chaser Big Zeb, Sizing Europe has since won both the Tingle Creek and the Tied Cottage, the latter by fifteen lengths over Big Zeb, which would appear to confirm his superiority.
However, there are a couple of black marks against his name, in the fact that ten of the last eleven defending Champion Chasers have all lost their crown, with only Master Minded being able to successfully defend the title, plus the fact that he is now ten years old.
So if we’re to find something to beat Sizing Europe, where do we look? Historically, the Champion Chase isn’t a race for big priced shock winners, with 26 of the last 30 winners having gone off at single figure odds (and ten of the last thirteen winners were priced 6.00 or shorter), so we don’t want to look too far away from the head of the betting.
Big Zeb (best price 8.00, Coral) seems an unlikely winner now aged eleven years old, having been beaten comfortably at the 2011 Festival and again in the Tied Cottage Chase, while another trend going against him is the fact that only Royal Relief and Moscow Flyer have managed to regain the Champion Chase title in the history of the race.
In recent years, Somersby (best price 13.00, BetVictor & SportingBet) has had to make do with being a bridesmaid at the Cheltenham Festival, including a fifth place finish in this race last year. A long awaited Grade One success came recently in the Victor Chandler Chase, but trainer Henrietta Knight has indicated that the horse is likely to run in the Ryanair Chase instead of the Champion Chase: “It’s still difficult to say what his distance is … I would like to go to the Ryanair, I think that’s our race.”
Finian’s Rainbow is an interesting contender, as he is still pretty unexposed. He came to National Hunt racing late, making his debut in bumpers aged six, and at last year’s Cheltenham Festival he was second to Captain Chris in the Arkle, which as we’ve already discussed, is always a great trial for the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Trainer Nicky Henderson said recently: “I’d like to think there’s a bit of improvement to come, I don’t think he’s at his absolute best yet.” At a best price of 7.00 (BetVictor), he could well prove to be the alternative to Sizing Europe.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase
Wednesday 14th March 2012, 15:20
Finian’s Rainbow (Each-Way) @ 7.00 (BetVictor)