The two-mile Champion Chase was first run in 1959 and is one of the oldest races to be run at the Cheltenham Festival. It has always been held in high regard by all that have been associated with the race and as a consequence was chosen as the race to celebrate the Queen Mother 80th Birthday in 1980. Ever since the race has been known, officially, as the Queen Mother Champion Chase and one of the Royal family are always on hand to present the successful connections with their prize in the winners’ enclosure.
Those winners have included some legendary horses, who have recorded multiple victories in the Championship race. The standout, in terms of race wins, is Badsworth Boy, who successfully defended his crown twice on the way to three glorious wins in the race between 1983 and 1985.
Ten horses have doubled up, with the likes of Royal Relief (1972 and 1974), Pearlyman (1987 and 1988) and more recently Master Minded (2008 and 2009) etching themselves into the legacy of the Festival with some spine-tingling performances.
Queen Mother Champion Chase Tips
Sizing Europe looks to have the edge over Big Zeb at this year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham but Finians Rainbow should go close
Master Minded’s trainer Paul Nicholls is the current leading trainer for the two-mile showpiece, landing the odds four times with Call Equiname (1999) Azertyuiop (2004) and twice with Master Minded. Ditcheat’s finest doesn’t however boat the best record for wins in the race by a handler, that is held by Tom Dreaper, who dominated the Festival in the sixties, recording six victories with Fortrai (1960 and 1961), Ben Stack (1964), Flyingbolt (1966), Muir (1969) and Straight Fort (1970).
The previous year’s Arkle Chase is usually a brilliant guide to assessing future winners of this event and that was the case with last season’s winner Sizing Europe. Henry De Bromhead’s charge became the seventh chaser to follow up in the Queen Mother a year after landing the novice event. He is back again this year and heads all ante-post betting markets.
Ireland have a sensational record in the Queen Mother Champion Chase (21 from 52) and it’s not a surprise to see last year’s winner from the Emerald Isle, Sizing Europe, heading the ante-post markets.
Henry de Bromhead’s classy animal looked as good as ever when easily disposing of nearest rival Big Zeb at Leopardstown in February and all looks set for the Irish raider to become the eleventh horse in history to double up in the two-mile chase showpiece.
If its jockey trends that float your betting boat then maybe latching onto either Ruby Walsh or Barry Geraghty in the race could prove profitable as they both have won the race three times each in recent years.
Geraghty is likely to switch from riding 2010 champion and last season’s runner-up Big Zeb in favour of taking up his stable-jockey duties aboard the Nicky Henderson trained Finian’s Rainbow.
The Michael Buckley-owned gelding finished a good second in last year’s Arkle and looked the most likely winner a long way from home until being outstayed in the final strides by Captain Chris. His preparations haven’t gone entirely to plan this season, but he has far been disgraced. He was only beaten by a length in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot in January by track-specialist Somersby and it is thought returning to Cheltenham that form will be reversed.
Although not renowned a strong finisher, Finian’s Rainbow does jump a fence exceptionally well and therefore should put a lot of pressure on his rivals. You can guarantee he will be there with two to jump it’s just a case of whether he will stay up the famous Cheltenham hill or not.
With Geraghty set to miss the ride on Big Zeb this would leave Walsh presumably free to pick up a lucrative spare ride on the Irish chaser as Paul Nicholls’ isn’t likely to have a runner in the two-mile showpiece this season.
However, Big Zeb was beaten a long way on his last start behind Sizing Europe and does have a lot of questions to answer now.