Willie Mullins may well monopolise the 2016 Cheltenham Festival with his amazing bunch of hot-pots but, in the hope that he doesn’t, this week I’m aiming to find a horse with which to take on his Champion Chase favourite Un De Sceaux.
Un De Sceaux does have plenty in his favour as last season’s Arkle winners do have an excellent record when trying to win the following year’s Champion Chase but, after falling on his seasonal debut, it’s time to look at finding an each-way alternative.
He’s also declared to run at Ascot on Saturday and, if he were to run poorly there, then he might drift further – though, obviously, the opposite could also be true.
So here’s the other leading Champion Chase contenders.
Sprinter Sacre 4/1
Horses returning to Cheltenham and regaining a major title used to be something that rarely happened, but top-class horses Kauto Star and Hurricane Fly have both managed it in recent years. The mighty Moscow Flyer also did it in this race in 2005, though Sprinter Sacre would be the first to regain a crown after a 2-year gap. However, he has looked capable of winning a Champion Chase on both of his starts this year.
Sire De Grugy 9/1
The 2014 Champion bids to do a Moscow Flyer and regain his crown after just a 1-year gap but, whilst he was awesome in regaining his Tingle Creek crown, Sprinter Sacre put him in his place at Kempton. However, the last 3 winners of the Champion Chase did win the Tingle Creek that season.
Dodging Bullets 10/1
Had flopped at the Cheltenham Festival on several occasions before winning last year’s Champion Chase, after dominating the 2-mile division. Most of the other big guns flopped that day though, and will struggle to get there in as good a form as last year after missing the first half of the season.
Special Tiara 12/1
Got much closer to Dodging Bullets last year then he had to Sire De Grugy the year before, and has run two great races at Sandown since then. Could still have a little improvement in him, but hard to see him winning unless all the big guns fail to fire.
Felix Yonger 20/1
Typically, Willie Mullins could have a second string to his bow, and this one already boasts a second and a fourth at the Cheltenham Festival. However, he missed the Festival last season as he mopped-up plenty of decent pots in Ireland instead.
A horse of immense promise, but injuries may well stop him ever delivering on that promise. His comeback is on hold at the moment, and he looks a bit too risky for my money.
Gods Own 33/1
Got within 6-lengths of Un De Sceaux in last year’s Arkle and, due to his preference for good ground, is being kept for a spring campaign by his trainer. Just a suspicion he’s better going right-handed though.
Josses Hill 40/1
Placed at the last two Cheltenham Festivals, latterly 8 lengths behind Un De Sceaux. The Henderson yard wasn’t firing on full-power then though, and probably one of the few horses who has massive room for improvement. Interesting he was nibbled at in the market before falling in this season’s Tingle Creek.
The prospect of Un De Sceaux pinging away out in front and Sprinter Sacre stalking him closely behind is a thrilling one. Add in Sire De Grugy, and it could be an absolute thriller. Personally, I think there’s not a chaser on the planet who can go too fast for a back-to-form Sprinter Sacre – and I think he’ll power up the hill in front of them all!
Sprinter Sacre each-way @ 4/1