Cheltenham Festival Previews – Queen Mother Champion Chase Selections

Put The Kettle On ridden by Aidan Coleman on their way to winning the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase looks set to be the race of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival. Joe Napier gives his verdict on what is set to be a blockbuster.

Chacun Pour Soi

Last year’s odds-on favourite returns not only from defeat that day, but with significant doubts about his adaptability for British tracks.

CHACUN POUR SOI seemed to empty up the hill last season. His legion of supporters would disagree that the race was untruly run and that Paul Townend could have ridden him more aggressively. The issue this time around is that he has a stablemate who may well be even better and who Townend has deserted him for.

In Ireland, Chacun Pour Soi has cleaned up in the last few seasons. He simply has a cruising speed that no other two-miler can match and he has the ability to put races to bed even with a couple of fences to jump.

However, it went wrong again at Sandown and although there is a potential injury excuse, his only two runs that have been notably below par have come on these shores. He has something to prove.


The Clarence House Chase, aside from being one of the most pulsating races in recent years, has also become one of the most minutely analysed.

Shishkin came out on top, but many believe ENERGUMENE could have it in him to turn the tables. He was unbeaten in Ireland prior to travelling across to Ascot, with no rival able to serve it up to him.

The doubters will suggest that conditions at Ascot could not have been more ideal for him. Soft ground, on a right-handed track, should have suited him ideally, while he also got to control the pace he wanted. Having done everything right, he still saw Shishkin gallop past him in the shadow of the post.

He may correct slightly to the right when he jumps, but that has barely affected him to date. Should he find himself at the front end coming down the hill and Shishkin is still in the main body, Townend may be tempted to pull the trigger. He will take some catching.

Envoi Allen

ENVOI ALLEN is in the bottom half of the betting for a championship race. That circumstance alone would have been a big price this time last season.

A year ago, he was unbeaten under National Hunt rules and was to go off at 4/9 for the Turners Novices’ Chase. So began somewhat of a spiral. He overjumped early on in that race, unseated Rachael Blackmore, and is still recovering.

He has won twice this season, but the Graded races he has won have been veritable penalty kicks. The one seriously competitive heat he faced in the Grade 1 John Durkan Chase, for which he went off favourite, proved too much for him as he could finish only sixth.

Whether he has the pace for this would always have been questionable, but the mettle for this battle against some top class rivals is also under serious doubt.

Funambule Sivola

The two times FUNAMBULE SIVOLA has raced over two miles this season he has won and Venetia Williams has decided to throw him in at the deep end for his first Cheltenham Festival.

He could just as easily have taken his place off top weight in the Grand Annual, but he has only ever been beaten twice at the minimum trip. One of those came when he was still improving as a novice chaser, and the other came behind Shishkin at Aintree last term.

However, he gave Nicky Henderson’s star a bit of a fright that day and he won the Game Spirit Chase last time out with a degree of comfort. He has earned his place at this level.

This just happens to be the most competitive of the feature races though and while he could pinch a place if a couple underperform, it feels unlikely that things will fall into place.

Nube Negra

Dan Skelton has every faith that NUBE NEGRA could cause an upset. There is definitely some evidence which backs up his confidence.

A rare National Hunt superstar bred in Spain, the strikingly jet black eight-year-old was a horribly unlucky runner-up last season. We could just as easily be talking about him as the defending champion, but he ran out of time to catch Put The Kettle On after meeting a little trouble up the run-in.

He could not live with Chacun Pour Soi at Punchestown thereafter, but his career is littered with examples which prove he is better fresh. His three best RPRs have come after breaks of at least 80 days, with his fourth best rating a full 9lb lower.

He has had 102 days since flopping in the Tingle Creek, which came too soon after his previous run. If ridden cold, he could easily find himself in with a chance late on.


The fascinating thing about this season’s Champion Chase is that the last two winners are the two rank outsiders in the field.

The gallant grey POLITOLOGUE, a genuine National Hunt favourite, stole the crown two years ago when taking advantage of a fantastic opportunity. He missed out on last year’s race as a late non runner, but had previously added to his Grade 1 tally in the Tingle Creek.

He has had just the one run this term, when downed by Nube Negra and realistically the 11-year-old has a lot to prove.


Depending on how day one goes, the pressure on SHISHKIN may be absolutely enormous.

Ireland will inevitably win the Prestbury Cup once again, but the onus is on the Brits to not be annihilated once again, Shishkin, as the one genuine great currently trained on these shores, could be a horse who simply must win to avoid the beating becoming relentless.

He is unbeaten when standing up over obstacles and has a miraculous will to win. That was demonstrated to astounding and dramatic effect in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot when not at his most fluent over his fences.

Energumene set a strong gallop which appeared to have Shishkin in some trouble, but gathered consistently by Nico De Boinville, he flew home, saving his best until the very end. It was spookily reminiscent of recent Seven Barrows alumni Altior, and he has every chance of following in his footsteps.

Put The Kettle On

After her gutsy victory in this a year ago, PUT THE KETTLE ON just has not been the same.

That win maintained a 100% record at Cheltenham at the time, but that success rate has since come to an end. Returning to Prestbury Park in November, she looked hopelessly out of sorts and was brutally outpaced by Nube Negra.

She finished third that day, but in mares’ only company she struggled even more, finishing last of five to Mount Ida at Fairyhouse. That attempt up in trip possibly convinced connections to chance her once again here, but this is a much stronger race and she has not been the same horse.


There may not have been a trio as great in the Champion Chase since the days of Moscow Flyer, Azertyuiop and Well Chief. Out of SHISHKIN, Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi, it is Nicky Henderson’s sensational eight-year-old who gets the narrow verdict, as the race should suit more than Ascot. However, Energumene may be an even greater threat and it is easy to envision a scenario in which he may break away.