The Celebration Chase (Sandown, Saturday 3.35pm) is a Grade-1 two-mile chase run over 13 fences, and this year’s result may have a massive say in deciding which one of Paul Nicholls or Willie Mullins wins this year’s English Trainers Championship.
Both Nicholls and Mullins have 3 entered at this stage, with the Nicholls’ possibles being Dodging Bullets, Solar Impulse and Ulck Du Lin, whilst Mullins could saddle the outstanding trio of Vautour, Douvan and Un De Sceaux.
There’s over £100,000 of prize-money up for grabs, and it will be interesting to see how many runners both trainers target at the race. However, the race is also likely to be targeted by the winners of the last three renewals in Sire Du Grugy (2013/2014) and Special Tiara (2015).
A possible 10 runners may go to post.
The 2014 Tingle Creek winner and 2015 Champion Chase winner will be the main hope of Paul Nicholls but, after missing this season’s Tingle Creek, and finishing only seventh in the Champion Chase, his hopes may rest on the fantastic form of his stable bringing him back to the form of last season.
Unbeaten in 9 races over hurdles and fences, it’s hard to know just how good Douvan could be, though the form of those races is questionable having often beaten the same horses in his races. Visually he look amazing, but the stable may not feel the need to risk him against more experienced opposition yet with easier picking available at the Punchestown Festival.
Sire Du Grugy
A somewhat lucky winner of this year’s Tingle Creek, but he’s unbeaten at the track. Only eighth in the Champion Chase though, and may be running for place money if one or more of the bigger guns runs up to their best.
With prize-money down to sixth place, it’s easy to see why Paul Nicholls has this no-hoper entered, and if the race cuts-up he should add a few pounds to Paul Nicholls’ trainer’s bid.
Shown plenty of form at Sandown, including winning this last year, and he should relish the good ground. He also ran a blinder in the Champion Chase, and looks the each-way value.
Simply the best two-mile chaser around when at his best, and won the 2012 Tingle Creek in breath-taking style. Did finish 6-lengths behind Special Tiara in last year’s race, but is back to something like his best this year. Connections have said Punchestown could be an alternative option.
Trainer Kerry Lee has got two grade-1 chases out of one of her stable stars this season, but this is surely a step too far, and he’s probably prefer softer ground.
Ulck Du Lin
The last of the Paul Nicholls trained trio is another who’ll be hoping the race will cut-up to boost his trainer’s coffers even further.
Un De Sceaux
He didn’t seem to like getting taken on for the lead by Special Tiara at Cheltenham in the Champion Chase, but looks like he’ll have the same problem here, and Special Tiara has better form at Sandown. Would prefer softer ground.
Would have to put his fall at Aintree behind him, and connections may not want to put further pressure on his jumping by dropping him back in trip against top-class 2-milers.
Un De Sceaux looks the likeliest of the Mullins trio to turn-up, and another mouth-watering clash with Sprinter Sacre could await. However, neither Mullins nor Henderson have fully committed their horses to the race, and the early value may well be in backing Special Tiara each-way before the race cuts-up.