2020 Champion Chase tips – Tips for Ladies’ Day main event
Champion Chase Preview
Jon Vine takes a look through the betting for the feature race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival and provides readers with his 2020 Champion Chase tips on Wednesday 11th March.
The showpiece race on Ladies’ Day at the Cheltenham Festival is the Queen Mother Champion Chase. This two-mile Grade One often produces a “race of the week” contender, as the best two-mile chasers look to make history at Prestbury Park. Many of the sport’s greats claimed Champion Chase glory during their illustrious careers, with the names of Badsworth Boy, Moscow Flyer and Sprinter Sacre shining on the roll of honour.
Three superstars head the betting for day two’s feature, and viewers look set to be treated to a thoroughly thrilling race. I’ve taken a closer look at the most likely runners and come up with my 2020 Champion Chase tips.
Champion Chase Tips – The Defending Champion
Having swept all aside over two miles for the previous four seasons, Nicky Henderson delighted fans when he announced Altior (2/1 William Hill) would be tried over further distances at the end of the 2018/19 campaign. Altior’s unbeaten run then came to an end at Ascot, as he was held off comfortably by Cyrname in the 1965 Christy Chase, and plans to run in the King George had to be shelved.
Altior looked in trouble two-out on his return to two miles in the Game Spirit Chase. Yet, when Henderson’s star turned on the afterburners, the race was put to bed in a matter of strides. While it was nice to see that Altior still possesses that deadly turn-of-foot, he’ll need to be at his very, very best to claim a hat-trick of Champion Chases.
Champion Chase Tips – The Pretenders To The Throne
Defi Du Seuil
Winner of the Marsh Novices’ Chase 12 months ago, Defi De Seuil (9/4 Ladbrokes) has risen to the top of the ranks in the two-mile division this term. Philip Hobbs’ star kicked off this season with a comfortable victory in the Shloer Chase, before grinding out a narrow victory in the Tingle Creek at Sandown, where the heavy ground was never likely to suit.
Another triumph followed at Ascot, where Defi Du Seuil trounced an under-par Un De Sceaux in the Clarence House. You can pick holes in the form of that race, but Defi Du Seuil would have won whatever Un De Sceaux had turned up on the day. On everything the top three have produced this season, for me, Defi Du Seuil is the one to beat.
Chacun Pour Soi
Unlike Altior, Chacun Pour Soi (11/4 Unibet) has a victory over Defi Du Seuil on his CV, having defeated his rival at Punchestown at the end of last season. A Plus Tard then got the better of Paul Townend’s mount over Christmas, outstaying the favourite on the run to the line at Leopardstown.
Willie Mullins was confident his star chaser would come on for that run, and come on he certainly did at the Dublin Racing Festival. Chacun Pour Soi put on a clinic of jumping that day, and comfortably pulled clear of Min to win the Dublin Chase by four lengths. Easily the best jumper in the field, the only question is whether Chacun Pour Soi will handle Cheltenham or not? If he does, then the top two better be on their A-game.
Champion Chase Tips – Back For Another Crack
12 months ago, Politologue (33/1 Paddy Power) looked the most likely winner of this Grade One as the front thee jumped the last, only for Altior to outmuscle Paul Nicholls’ charge on the run to the line. It’s now been six starts since Politologue’s last victory and the former Melling winner has been comfortably beaten by Defi Du Seuil on both his starts so far this term. He won’t feature in my final 2020 Champion Chase tips.
Sceau Royal (33/1 William Hill) ran a blinder to place third in the 2019 renewal of the Queen Mother. Alan King’s eight-year-old finished some 23-length adrift of Defi Du Seuil in the Tingle Creek at Sandown, and could only manage third in a weak edition of the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas. He was carrying a six-pound penalty that day though, so his performance could be upgraded. Yet, Sceau Royal was no match for Altior in the Game Spirit and I can’t see King’s star getting involved this time around.
Champion Chase Tips – Overlooked Contenders
Cilaos Emery (10/1 Ladbrokes) racked up a trio of victories earlier in the season, recording victories over Ornua and Ballyoisin with the minimum of fuss. On his only start as a novice, Willie Mullins’ charge comfortably beat future Arkle winner Duc Des Genievres, along with spring winners like Impact Factor and Ex Patriot. Cilaos Emery is clearly as very good quality chaser, but we didn’t have chance to see just how good he is at Leopardstown, as Mullins’ chaser fell at the first in the Dublin Chase. Never-the-less, he could be the best of the each-way 2020 Champion Chase tips at his current price. There’s a chance he could be switched to the Champion Hurdle though.
Dynamite Dollars (33/1 Ladbrokes) looked set for a tilt at the Arkle last year, having won the Grade One Henry VIII Chase at Sandown and two further Grade Twos. Injury denied Paul Nicholls’ the charge to compete for Festival honours though, and Dynamite Dollars didn’t reappear until the Game Spirit. Nicholls’ was delighted with his chaser’s third-place finish that day and he’s bound to come on for the run. He’s another with slim each-way hopes.
Duc Des Genievres
I thought last year’s Arkle, won convincingly by Duc Des Genievres (40/1 Paddy Power), was a weak race at the time. The form Willie Mullins’ charge has shown since has proven those initial sentiments to be correct. Duc Des Genievres has been comfortably beaten on all three of his starts this season, losing out to Bun Doran in the Desert Orchid at Kempton on his most recent run.
Tom George will have been surprised and delighted in equal measure to see Bun Doran (50/1 Paddy Power) score in that Grade Two over Christmas. His eight-year-old had only previously won handicap races prior to that Kempton triumph, but Bun Doran outjumped Duc Des Genievres and Sceau Royal before running out a worthy winner. With his rating now a little too high for the Grand Annual, George may have no choice but to throw Bun Doran into the Champion Chase. He has strong course form and consistency in the jumping department on his side, but clearly lacks the class of the leading trip.
Janika (50/1 Unibet) ran up to an excellent level in handicaps last season. A sparkling victory in the Haldon Gold Cup earmarked Nicky Henderson‘s charge as a chaser to follow during the upcoming campaign. That Exeter triumph has turned into more of a curse than a blessing, though. On the back of it, Henderson has run Janika in two Grade One chases over two miles, with a surprising tilt at the Relkeel Hurdle sandwiched in-between. Janika is clearly a two-and-a-half-mile chaser. He features in my Ryanair preview…
This would be Ordinary World’s (200/1 Paddy Power) third outing in the Champion Chase, having lost out by 35-lengths in the previous two renewals. Henry De Bromhead found a simple winning opportunity for his ten-year-old at Ballinrobe in September, and Ordinary World ran well to place third behind A Plus Tard at Leopardstown on his only start since. I highly doubt whether he has the quality to challenge the winners, but I do think he’s overpriced at 200/1 and could catch a place if the race falls apart.
Champion Chase Tips – Verdict
Of those sitting at each-way prices, I think Bun Doran offers the greatest value. Gods Own carried those silks in the Champion Chaser on a number of occasions, and Tom George’s Desert Orchid winner has produced several fantastic jumping displays here at Cheltenham in the past.
The history of the Champion Chase tells us that upsets don’t often happen, with only four horses winning with double-figure odds since the turn of the millennium. So, while I will take a speculative punt on Bun Doran at a stupid price, I think the winner will come from one of the three who head of the market.
I would love to see Altior become just the second horse to claim a hat-trick of Champion Chase wins. The romantics in the crowd will surely place their faith in Nicky Henderson’s star, but everything we’ve seen from Altior in the last 12 to 18 months suggests he’s not the force of old.
Sure, he had enough speed to drag himself into contention and eventually win the Game Spirit Chase comfortably. Yet, if the top two put him out of his comfort zone early enough, will Altior’s ten-year-old legs be able to produce that finish after the last? I think not.
It may be time he passed the torch over to a younger rival and, while Chacun Pour Soi would be a worthy winner, I think it’ll be DEFI DU SEUIL who gratefully accepts Altior’s mantle.
Chacun Pour Soi may have beaten the market leader at Punchestown last season, but Defi Du Seuil went into that on the back of a long-hard season and the winner was fresh as a daisy. That was a very slow race, and Chacun Pour Soi was able to see off the field from the front.
At Leopardstown over Christmas, A Plus Tard stayed with Paul Townend’s mount as the leaders set a hot pace and Chacun Pour Soi had no answer as Henry De Bromhead’s charge outstayed him after the last. Mullins’ charge may have jumped Min into submission in the Dublin Chase, but I was expecting Chacun Pour Soi to pull much further clear on the run to the line than he eventually did. I’m not sure the track at Cheltenham will suit.
The Champion Chase is always a truly run race. Which may not suit Chacun Pour Soi, but it’ll definitely be to Defi Du Seuil’s taste. Philip Hobbs’ star stays 20 furlongs no problem and has displayed tremendous gears over both two and two-and-a-half-miles. The faster they go, the better it will be for Barry Geraghty, who will sit just off the pace before pouncing on whoever’s leading as they approach the final flight. Even at 9/4, Defi Du Seuil is the best 2020 Champion Chase tip!