Day two of the Cheltenham Festival brings a feature race of Royal proportions: The Queen Mother Champion chase.
This one’s for the two-mile chasers aged five and older. Twelve fences stand in the way of this year’s field including previous winners SPRINTER SACRE, SIRE DE GRUGY and 2015 champion DODGING BULLETS. A brace of debutantes also vying for glory could include the talented VAUTOUR and market favourite UN DE SCEAUX.
The race has been a happy hunting ground for jockey Barry Geraghty in recent years. The Irishman holds the joint record for most Champion Chase wins in history (5) and last won with Sprinter Sacre in 2013. Geraghty partners Sprinter again this year for the horse’s third CC appearance, but does the former champ have the stats and trends on his side this time round?
12 of the last 13 defending champions that ran have been beaten
DODGING BULLETS is the defending champion this time round after defeating a field including Somersby, Sire De Grugy, Sprinter Sacre and Mr Mole last year. However the last decade-or-so hasn’t been kind to defending champions, with only the special Master Minded successfully defending his crown (won in 2008 and 2009) since 2003. SIRE DE GRUGY won his Champion Chase in 2014 but failed to place the following year. SPRINTER SACRE has never defended his crown. He was ruled out through injury a year after winning his title.
The last 13 winners ran during the same calendar year
UN DE SCEAUX, DODGING BULLETS, CLARCAM, BRIGHT NEW DAWN, FELIX YOUNGER, GODS OWN, JUST CAMERON, MOZOLTOV, SIRE DE GRUGY and TWINLIGHT have all run in 2016. However CHAMPAGNE FEVER, SIZING GRANITE, SOMERSBY, SPECIAL TIARA, SPRINTER SCARE and VAUTOUR last ran in 2015.
11 of the last 15 winners contested the Tingle Creek Chase
December’s famed Tingle Creek at Sandown is often seen as the natural stepping-stone to the Champion Chase, which is why 11 of the last 15 CC winners all featured in the race. The 2015 Tingle Creek was won by the now-injured Josses Hill, but only SIRE DE GRUGY, SOMERSBY and SPECIAL TIARA appeared alongside the Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old that day. Champion Chase market favourite UN DE SCEAUX swerved the Tingle Creek after Mullins described his charge as “a little bit flat” to compete.
ONLY FOUR OF THE LAST 30 CHAMPION CHASE WINNERS WERE AGED 10 OR OVER
This race ain’t for the oldies, which means SOMERSBY (12), SPRINTER SACRE (10), SIRE DE GRUGY (10), MOZOLTOV (10) and FELIX YOUNGER (10) can all be dismissed from this year’s Champion Chase shortlist if sticking by this trend. Moscow Flyer is the oldest-ever Champion Chase winner from the last 30 years (aged 11 when winning in 2005) but most winners in that same period were been aged eight (11 winning eight-year-olds). Eight-year-olds entered in this year’s race include DODGING BULLETS, GOD’S OWN, SIZING GRANITE and, notably, UN DE SCEAUX.
18 of the last 19 Champion Chase winners had run no more than 4 times that season
Market principals UN DE SCEAUX, SPRINTER SACRE, VAUTOUR, SPECIAL TIARA, DODGING BULLETS and SIRE DE GRUGY have all had less than four runs so far this season but CLARCAM has already been seen five times on the track so far this campaign, so that’s another reason to dismiss the big-priced entry.