There is no more thrilling race in the National Hunt Calendar than the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and watching the best 2-mile chasers battle it out over 12 fences at Cheltenham never fails to get the juices flowing.
A look at the roll of honour and brilliant champions like Sprinter Sacre, Master Minded, Moscow Flyer, Viking Flagship, One Man and Barnbrook Again stir some magical memories.
Ten-year-trends show that horses aged 5 to 10 have lifted the trophy in the last decade, whilst trainers Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls have trained 3 winners each, whilst 3 different Irish Trainers have also held the trophy aloft. Meanwhile, Barry Geraghty has ridden 5 of the last 14 winners, and needs just one more to be the most winning jockey.
So, let’s take a look at the leading protagonists.
Willie Mullins has yet to get his hands on the trophy, but the unbeaten Douvan would seem to be his best chance yet. He has only beaten the same horses over and over again so far, but the style in which he’s done it earmarks him down as a potential star. Goes on any ground, and is proven over course and distance having won the Arkle, a route that many previous winners have taken to success. However, the sad demise of stablemate Vautour increase the chances of him being stepped-up in trip this season, and Ruby Walsh has made no secret of the fact he thinks he could win a Gold Cup.
Sprinter Sacre 4/1
The 2013 winner made the greatest comeback of all-time last year as he rolled back the years to return to his brilliant best and regain his title 3 years on. Absolutely thrives at Cheltenham and, as Moscow Flyer won the race at the age of 11, I don’t see any reason why he can’t become only the second horse to win the race three-times after Badsworth Boy. At his best on good ground.
Un Des Sceaux 16/1
Hard to believe that any horse who traded odds-on for this race last year is now a 16/1 chance, though there is a doubt as to his participation. Could be a real contender though if the ground came-up soft, and would look a definite runner if Douvan does step-up in trip.
Gods Own 20/1
Still only 8, he could improve further this year, and there was much to like about his reappearance second under a big weight. However, needs to improve as his second in the 2015 Arkle and his fourth in the 2016 Champion Chase suggest he’s an each-way shot at best.
Ar Mad 25/1
Looked a 2-mile chaser of some potential last year, and the 6-year-old could still have his best days ahead of him if he returns sound from injury. However, he’s looked a better horse going right-handed so far.
Fox Norton 25/1
Looked to have improved when making a well-backed winning return at Cheltenham on his seasonal debut, but has over 10-lengths to find with Douvan on their running in last season’s Arkle. Only 6 though, so could yet make up into a leading contender.
Special Tiara 33/1
Knocked Un Des Sceaux out of his comfort zone last year when taking that horse on for the early lead, however he stuck on well to be third for the second year in the race. Unlikely to improve again at the age of 9, but could still have his moment in the limelight if the leading protagonists fall by the wayside.
Dodging Bullets 50/1
The 2015 Champion may not be quite in the same league as Sprinter Sacre, but would still be an each-way player if turning-up in his best form. However, his trainer has suggested that he may be campaigned over 2½ miles for the remainder of this season.
2017 Queen Mother Champion Chase Tip
If Sprinter Sacre turns-up in the same form as last year then he could have the beating of Douvan, and this is definitely his target regardless of whether Douvan lines-up or not. Nicky Henderson has also said he looks “Bigger and better than ever” and the 4/1 looks far too big with doubts about the favourite. If Douvan looks likely to be routed elsewhere, then he could well be odds-on come the day.
Sprinter Sacre @ 4/1
*If you’d like more in-depth analysis and tips of some of the week’s biggest races, then please take a FREE TRIAL of my horse racing service BIG RACE BOOKIE BUSTERS – which has produced a profit of £5,234.10 to a £10 per point stake since November 2014, with a strike rate of 27.26% and a Return On Investment of 25.61%.