The Punchestown Champion Chase (Tuesday 25 April, 5.30) is run over 2-miles and 11 fences. It has been won by some of the great 2-mile chasers, such as Sizing Europe, Sprinter Sacre, Big Zeb, Master Minded, Moscow Flyer, Flagship Uberalles, Klairon Davis and Viking Flagship, though the race has also seen plenty of favourites fail to conform their performances at either of the preceding big-festivals at Cheltenham and Aintree.
Winners have been aged 6 to 12, with 8-year-olds winning three renewals
6 winners had won last time out
Winners had run 18 to 48 days previously
SPs ranged from 1/9 to 12/1
Willie Mullins has trained 2 of the last 7 winners
Ruby Walsh has ridden 2 of the last 9 winners
Once very highly-regarded by Willie Mullins but, though he has won four-times since August, his form doesn’t suggest he’s up to winning this. Would also prefer another half-a-mile, and is 0 from 4 at Punchestown.
Hard to knock his form from this season, with 3 wins and a close second in the Champion Chase from 5 starts, with his one below-par run easily forgiven on his return from injury. Looked ideally suited to 2½ miles last-time, but his head second in the Champion Chase means he’s closely matched with Un De Sceaux. Slight worry that this is his third big-festival, and that his best form has come going left-handed. However, he won two novice chases going right-handed, and was third in the 4-year-old Champion Hurdle here a few seasons ago.
Not at his best so far this season, including when well-behind Fox Norton at both Cheltenham and Aintree. However, this is his happiest hunting ground, having won the Ryanair Novice Chase in 2014, and this race last year.
Likeable 12-year-old who has been better than ever this year. However, he should have no pretensions of winning this unless the big-guns seriously underperform.
Rock The World
Well-gambled to win the Grand Annual after being absent for 5-months after being beaten 50-lengths by Fox Norton on his previous start, and that win has been boosted slightly since. However, this requires a big personal-best by the 9-year-old.
Keeps improving, but needs to find more after being beaten 5½-lengths by Un De Sceaux in this season’s Tingle Creek, and 6-lengths by Fox Norton in the Champion Chase.
The Game Changer
Only finished 2¼-lengths behind Fox Norton in the 2016 Arkle but, whilst that horse has progressed, he’s arguably regressed so far this season.
Un De Sceaux
Likeable front-runner who is 3 from 3 here at Punchestown, and has home-advantage. He also comes here fresh after missing Aintree, and Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins both know what it takes to win this race. However, his form ties in closely with Fox Norton, and he perhaps doesn’t deserve to be odds-on.
2017 Punchestown Champion Chase Summary
On this year’s form, this should be between Un De Sceaux and Fox Norton, whilst a return to his best from would give Gods Own a decent chance. Un De Sceaux’s home and freshness advantage make him a worthy favourite, but quotes of odds-on are very dismissive of Fox Norton, who holds the favourite on lines of form through both Sir Valentine and Sub Lieutenant. Therefore, though a win for Un De Sceaux would come as no surprise, the value-bet is the younger and improving Fox Norton.
Fox Norton @ 11/4 (Various Bookies)