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2019 Champion Chase Ante-Post Tips

Our expert takes a look through the early ante-post betting for the Champion Chase and highlights three horses for punters to back in the feature race on Ladies’ Day at the Cheltenham Festival.

Day two of the Cheltenham Festival, known commonly as Ladies’ Day, is headlined by the second Championship race of the week – the Champion Chase. Named after the Queen Mother - who put so much into the sport she loved - all of the greatest two mile chasers in the history of the sport have been crowned champion chaser, with the names of Badsworth Boy, Moscow Flyer, Viking Flagship and Sprinter Sacre shining brightly on the famous trophy.

The betting for this season’s renewal of the Champion Chase is starting to take shape. Our expert casts his eye through the ante-post market and identifies three horses for punters to place their faith in.

2019 Champion Chase Tips

👑 The One To Beat 👑

With just one seasonal appearance under his belt, ALTIOR looked extremely rusty for much of last year’s Champion Chase. Nico De Boinville was the first jockey to get to work and it took Nicky Henderson’s star chaser a good few furlongs to respond. Yet, when the penny dropped, Altior sprung to life, eating into Min’s advantage in the blink of an eye and streaking clear to claim his third Cheltenham Festival crown.

Altior’s reappearance victory over Politologue was boosted when Paul Nicholls’ charge saw off Min at Aintree. Seven Barrow’s pin-up boy then extended his unbeaten record over fences on his final start of the season, where Altior produced a workmanlike display in winning the Celebration Chase for the second year on the bounce.

A wind problem meant Altior didn’t run until February last season. Some may say that travelling to Cheltenham fresh was a positive, but I don’t think we saw Altior at his best at any point this season and I’m sure Henderson will be desperate to get a few extra runs into his eight-year-old before returning to the Festival. If 100% fit and firing on all cylinders, I can’t see a chaser out there who could beat Altior over two miles.

⚠️ The Big Danger ⚠️

Not the most original tip, I know, but FOOTPAD is undoubtedly Altior’s primary challenger in 2019. Willie Mullins’ charge was the best novice chaser on the planet last season, storming to victory at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival, the Cheltenham Festival and the season-ending meeting at Punchestown in April.

Footpad’s final four victories all came in Grade One company, including a runaway victory in the Arkle. The Munir & Souede-owned chaser ended his novice campaign baring a rating of 166 – just 2 pounds short of the mark Altior managed after his first season over fences – with the aggregate winning distances of his five victories totalling a staggering 52 lengths.

Mullins himself threw a small spanner in the works this week, as he seemed very keen on the idea of stepping Footpad up in trip during an interview, even earmarking the King George VI Chase at Kempton as a possible Christmas target. I can’t see Mullins going down the Gold Cup route and why would he go for the Ryanair when the far more prestigious Champion Chase is an option. I’m really looking forward to the showdown between Altior and Footpad come March – it could turn the Champion Chase into the race of the entire meeting.

♞ The Dark Horse ♞

Politologue would be a danger, had Nicholls not announced his intention to step his charge up beyond two miles this season. Injury denied Sceau Royal the chance to test himself against Footpad in the Arkle, but I doubt whether Alan King’s chaser has the class to compete at this level. 

Min is capable of winning Grade Ones on his day and has to be respected. Yet, the one who could be on hand to push the top two at Cheltenham is his stablemate, GREAT FIELD. Willie Mullins’ chaser endured an injury-ravaged campaign last year, appearing just once in the Grade Two Webster Cup, where he held on from the front to deny a charging Doctor Phoenix in the closing stages.

Despite labouring a little during that win at Naas, it meant Great Field still boasts a blemish-free record over fences. The JP McManus-owner chaser looked like a star in the making during his novice campaign – scoring an impressive Grade One triumph at Punchestown – and he will be making up for lost time this year. Barring any further injury problems, I expect Great Field to take part in the Champion Chase and he has the potential to be a genuine contender.

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Queen Mother Chase Facts

Recent Winners

The feature race on the second day of the Festival is the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Traditionally, the race has fewer entrants than the other Grade 1 events, but it certainly doesn’t suffer as a result. In fact, for many, this is the most exciting race of the fours days as it provides the thrilling spectacle of the best two mile chasers flying the Cheltenham fences at break neck speed.

Previous winners of the Arkle Trophy have a great record in this race - in fact the last 12 Arkle winners who returned the following season to compete in this race ALL finished in the first 3 (five winners, five second-places and two third-places). You very rarely get a below par winner of the race and indeed the winner of this race is often rated higher by the handicapper than the winner of the King George or the Gold Cup.

The event has produced some great winners and some great Festival memories, including some of the most incredible finishes in the history of the sport. No one who was there to witness them will ever forget the epic battles between Edredon Blue and Direct Route in 2000, or Viking Flagship, Travado and Deep Sensation in 1994, and the emotional triumph for One Man in 1998 must rate as one of the most popular Festival victories of all time.

2018 Altior
2017 Special Tiara
2016 Sprinter Sacre
2015 Dodging Bullets
2014 Sire De Grugy
2013 Sprinter Sacre
2012 Finian's Rainbow
2011 Sizing Europe
2010 Big Zeb
2009 Master Minded
2008 Master Minded
2007 Voy Por Ustedes
2006 Newmill
2005 Moscow Flyer
2004 Azertyuiop
2003 Moscow Flyer
2002 Flagship Uberalles
2000 Edredon Bleu
1999 Call Equiname
1998 One Man
1997 Martha’s Son
1996 Klairon Davis
1995 Viking Flagship
1994 Viking Flagship
1993 Deep Sensation
1992 Remittance Man
1991 Katabatic
1990 Barnbrook Again
1989 Barnbrook Again
(prior winners detailed at bottom of page)


Given the speed at which the runners travel, jumping is more at a premium in this race than in perhaps any other that is run at the Festival. Even the slightest mistake can cost lengths, as the pace is unrelenting from start to finish. As always, the ditches out in the country, and the second and third last fences coming down the hill, often provide key moments in the contest.

Race Facts

1. The National Hunt Two-Mile Champion Chase was first run in 1959 and the Queen Mother’s name was added to the race title in 1980, the year of her 80th birthday. The race was first sponsored in from 2007-10 by Seasons Holidays and is now backed by online bookmaker Sportingbet..

2. The race’s roll of honour includes plenty of multiple winners. Badsworth Boy (1983-85) is the only three-time winner. The double winners are Fortria (1960 and 1961), Drinny’s Double (1967 and 1968), Royal Relief (1972 and 1974), Skymas (1976 and 1977), Hilly Way (1978 and 1979), Pearlyman (1987 and 1988), Barnbrook Again (1989 and 1990), Viking Flagship (1994 and 1995), Moscow Flyer (2003 and 2005) and Master Minded (2008 and 2009).

3. Irish-trained runners have a good record in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, winning 20 of the 52 runnings, including Big Zeb, trained by Colm Murphy in 2010.

4. Tom Dreaper has the best record of any trainer in the race, winning six runnings with Fortria (1960 and 1961), Ben Stack (1964), Flyingbolt (1966), Muir (1969), and Straight Fort (1970). Of current trainers, Paul Nicholls (1999 Call Equiname, 2004 Azertyuiop and the 2008 & 2009 winner Master Minded) has the best record.

5. Flyingbolt was the shortest-priced winner when succeeding at 1/5 in 1966, while Another Dolly, who was awarded the 1980 race at odds of 33/1, provided the biggest upset.

6. Pat Taaffe is the most successful rider with five wins, while Ruby Walsh (Azertyuiop 2003 and Master Minded 2008 and 2009) and Barry Geraghty (Moscow Flyer 2003 and 2005, Big Zeb 2010 and Finian's Rainbow 2012) are the only current jockeys to have landed more than one Queen Mother Champion Chase.

7. The oldest horse to have triumphed was the 12-year-old Skymas in 1977, while the youngest victor was Master Minded, who was just five when winning for the first time in 2008.

8. A small but select field usually lines up for the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The largest field was in 1999 when 13 runners went to post, one while only five runners lined up in 1985, 1972, 1968, 1964, 1963 and 1961.

9. The most successful owners are George Ansley, who enjoyed three wins with Fortria (1960 and 1961) and Straight Fort (1970), and Doug Armitage who had three victories with Badsworth Boy (1983, 1984 and 1985).

10. Michael Dickinson trained the winner for three consecutive years with Rathgorman (1982) and Badsworth Boy (1983 & 1984). His mother Monica had taken charge of the training operation for Badsworth Boy’s final success in 1985.

11. In 1986, the Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Buck House subsequently met with that year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup heroine Dawn Run in a special match race at Punchestown in April, 1986. It was Dawn Run who prevailed by two and a half lengths.

12. The Irish Independent Arkle Chase is a good guide for future success in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Voy Por Ustedes (2007), Azertyuiop (2004), Moscow Flyer (2003 and 2005), Flagship Uberalles (2002), Klairon Davis (1996) and Remittance Man (1992) all won the novices’ event before their Queen Mother Champion Chase victory.

2012 Queen Mother Champion Chase Review

Sizing Europe was bidding to win the race for the second year running and he very nearly pulled it off, only succumbing to FINIAN'S RAINBOW on the run-in, after the last fence had been omitted due to the earlier fall of Wishfull Thinking.

Just a length and a quarter separated the pair at the line and, arguably, we may have seen a different result had they jumped the last fence, with Sizing Europe seemingly more affected by the dolled off fence and having to swerve around it.

The front two finished 15 lengths clear of the third horse home, Big Zeb, with Gauvain a further 11 lengths away in fourth.

2011 Queen Mother Champion Chase Review

Henry De Bromhead and Sizing Europe returned to the winner’s enclosure at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival for the second year on the bounce as the Irish raider put up a sensational display in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The 2010 Arkle Trophy winner returned to his best form and bounced back to winning ways under the hands of Andrew Lynch with an imperious display of jumping at Prestbury Park.

Sent off a 10/1 shot, the superstar managed to hold off the challenge of Colm Murphy’s second favourite Big Zeb after the two battled it out approaching the final fence with Captain Cee Bee also returning to something like his best to finish third.

Heavily backed dual Champion Chaser Master Minded was well supported before the race but he couldn’t live with the winner and never truly looked like he would be regaining his crown.

De Bromhead’s superstar was cut to 5/1 to retain his title and return to Cheltenham in 2012 for a hat-trick of successes.

2010 Queen Mother Champion Chase Review

A small but select field, and an end to end gallop, ensured wed end up with a winner worthy of any championship contest and with BIG ZEB finally putting his jumping problems behind him he fully earned his place in the history books with a convincing victory here.

Always travelling well, the only concern for his supporters was the fear that the jumping mishaps which have dogged his career to date would rob him of his finest hour. But in fairness to Colm Murphys nine year old, he scarcely put a foot wrong. Indeed, a fine leap at the last sealed the deal, despite him idling briefly on the run in. He seems to jump more fluently off this better ground and although he went off joint fourth favourite of nine, there was nothing lucky about this success. He should put up a bold show if able to turn up to defend his crown next season.

Forpadydeplasterer gamely chased the winner all the way up the straight an effort that was even more meritorious for the fact that he had led the field virtually from flag fall. In addition, he had not enjoyed the best preparation for the race having suffered a stone bruise in the days leading up to the Festival. His problem is that he lacks the finishing speed of the very best horses over two miles, so the Ryanair might be his Festival target next season.

Forpadydeplasterer confirmed the form of last seasons Arkle by again finishing one place ahead of Kalahari King.

Ferdy Murphys charge was never really competitive, but stayed on well to claim the final place and clearly again relished the decent going. Like the runner up, he is probably now worth trying over further.

The brilliant Master Minded has had a rollercoaster season and clearly wasnt at his best here as he could only finish fourth.

A fractured rib was diagnosed after his lacklustre effort over this course in November and his return to action at Newbury last month indicated that he was very much back to his best. However, either that fine effort resulted in him bouncing, he still has a problem, or the ground was too quick for him.

Ruby Walsh was niggling along at the top of the hill and, although he got into contention rounding the turn into the straight, he wasnt travelling as well as the winner and was readily left behind by the first two. He put in a tired leap at the last and was passed for third on the run-in, and clearly this was not the champion of old. He should now be given the summer off to hopefully give his brilliant trainer the chance to get him back to his best.

By contrast, Oh Crick ran a blinder to claim fifth, well clear of the remainder, and he obviously loves this place.

The ground was probably too lively for Golden Silver (sixth), whilst Twist Magic never seems to show his best here, although he lost all chance with a shuddering mistake at the fourth last and was eventually pulled up.

2009 Queen Mother Champion Chase Review

For any other horse, this would have been an impressive victory in one of the season’s blue riband events, but MASTER MINDED raised the bar last season and by his immense standards a seven length victory here suggested that the reigning Champion didn’t have to be at his brilliant best to land back to back renewals of this great race.

For all that, his win here was never in doubt, especially after Big Zeb’s departure four out. That was also the point in the race when Ruby Walsh took Master Minded up on to the heels of the leaders, and when he actually hit the front soon after the second last, the race was soon put to bed.

On this evidence, it is hard to see him not achieving legendary status at next year’s Festival by matching previous triple winner, Badsworth Boy. It seems as though the rest can’t even beat him when he isn’t quite a hundred per cent!

The veteran, Well Chief ran a blinder in second, confirming himself as one of the best two milers never to win this race.

It was a terrific effort after a 698-day absence, and one can only imagine what he might have achieved had he stayed injury free throughout his career. He stayed on strongly at the death here, having been outpaced slightly when the winner, Petit Robin and Briareus formed a breakaway group running down the hill.

Petit Robin hung on for third, but finished tired having mixed it with the winner for a long way. A mistake at the last didn’t help his chances and as a six year old he is entitled to improve further and challenge Master Minded again next season.

The 2006 Champion Chaser, Newmill stayed on well to finish fourth, but was never really in the contest. He often runs well here and decent ground is clearly the key to him. He would have claimed second had the race been over half a furlong more.

Scotsirish ran well to take fifth and clearly wasn’t inconvenienced by the step back in trip. He was hampered slightly at the last by the fall of Briareus, who deserved a better fate, having match strides with the principals for a long way. He was clearly tired at the time.

We’re still to find out how good Big Zeb is. The ground was in his favour here and he was still travelling well within himself when he crashed out. If he can sort out his jumping, he can prove to be the second best two miler chaser around….but he’ll have to go some to beat the awesome Master Minded.

2008 Queen Mother Champion Chase Review

A scintillating effort from MASTER MINDED who, in winning this great race, put up one of the classiest performances seen at the Festival in recent memory. Everything about his destruction of this top quality field was impressive and what made it even more remarkable was the fact that he is the first five-year-old to succeed in the race’s 49 year history. With time on his side, the sky’s the limit and he looks set to dominate this division for years to come.

The winner jumped immaculately throughout and when Ruby Walsh asked him to go and win his race turning for home the response was immediate and electric, and he made the former champion, Voy Por Ustedes, look almost second rate.

The two of them had the race between them from four out, but while Walsh was sitting motionless as he continued lead coming down the hill, Robert Thornton was rowing away on Voy Por Ustedes, trying to keep tabs on the winner. It was a vain pursuit in the end and, if anything, the winning distance of 19 lengths didn’t do justice to Master Minded’s superiority.

The runner up lost nothing in defeat – he was simply beaten by a better horse and there is no reason to think he didn’t give his running. He finished well clear of the rest and had Master Minded not been in the field he would have been an impressive winner himself. He looks ready for a step up in trip though, and the King George could be a long range target.

Nothing else was involved in the business end of the race.

Fair Along clearly wants further, for he was never going the pace and lost his place badly down the back side. It was only after the second last that he finally picked up and he stayed on strongly enough to take a remote third.

Twist Magic (sixth) and Tamarinbleu (seventh) were both disappointing. The former would probably have preferred a faster surface and was never travelling. He only just stays a stiff 2 miles on this sort of ground.

Tamarinbleu’s jumping didn’t hold up under this sort of pressure over this trip and connections probably wished they’d targeted the Ryanair instead. He doesn’t seem to have the speed to live with the top two mile chasers.

2007 Queen Mother Champion Chase Review

What was probably already not the strongest renewal of this great race following the retirements of Moscow Flyer and Azertyuiop, and the absence of Nickname due to unsuitable ground, was further devalued by the first fence fall of red hot favourite Well Chief. We’ll never know what would have happened had he stood up, but he had the form in the book to win and it is hard to envisage him not being involved in the finish.

As it was, VOY POR USTEDES was left to uphold the great recent record of Arkle winners in this race for in form jockey / trainer combination of Robert Thornton and Alan King. The horse looked beaten when he made a hash of the second last, but he rallied turning for home and outstayed his main rival, Dempsey on the run in. However, on this evidence, Kauto Star is probably the best two miler chaser about.

Dempsey ran another good race and relished the drying ground. He would surely have won a Champion Chase by now if it was run at Sandown or Kempton as he is significantly better going right handed.

River City in third, was another to enjoy the underfoot conditions. He was travelling really well in this race last year when falling, so this was compensation of sorts. However, the horse who won this event in 2006, Newmill was a big disappointment, as the fall of Well Chief had appeared to leave the race at his mercy. His jumping wasn’t as fluent as usual here and that didn’t help his chances.

Ashley Brook was the hard luck story of the race. He’d led throughout until being passed by the winner and runner up two out. However, he was visibly rallying running down to the last and was only a length behind when he was left short of room at the fence by the front two and fell. He has proven stamina and is up for a fight, and so would surely have worried the winner all the way to the line. He is a very talented, if slightly fragile, performer and at nine years old may have a couple more cracks at this race left in him.

2006 Queen Mother Champion Chase Review

A wonderful display of front running culminated in NEWMILL being crowned the new king of the two mile chasers at the end of an incident packed Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The race had already been deprived through injury of potentially leading players Well Chief, Azertyuiop, Ashley Brook and Contraband, and we only had to wait until the third fence for further drama when the favourite, Kauto Star, fell, bringing down the well supported Dempsey and hampering the reigning champion, Moscow Flyer.

To complete the carnage, Oneway and River City both unseated their riders when still in contention four out, whilst Kario De Sormain and Fundamentalist also failed to finish.

By stark contrast, NEWMILL’S jumping was fast and accurate throughout, and as is so often the case in this race, that proved to be the perfect recipe for success. Try as they might to close the gap on the flat, NEWMILL’S fencing enabled him to keep his challengers at bay and he was actually extending his advantage as he reached the winning post.

NEWMILL had had an unusual build up to the race, but his efforts over hurdles behind Brave Inca earlier in the season had clearly hinted at the enormous ability the horse possesses. Indeed it was only in the weeks leading up to the race that connections finally decided to have a crack at this race, rather than the Champion Hurdle. Freshness seems to be the key to him, as he thrives on having a good break between his races.

Although Fota Island eventually finished second, NEWMILL’S most persistent challenger proved to be the ever game and ultra consistent Mister McGoldrick. In the past he has run most of his best races on flat tracks and it was the final thrust up the Cheltenham hill that found him out here. He too has mixed hurdling with chasing this season to good effect and this must go down as a career best effort.

Fota Island was a bit one paced. He was one of a number of horses who was tapped for toe when NEWMILL increased the tempo running down the hill. The ground may not have been quite as quick as he likes it, but this is his time of year and at 10 years old it is hard to see him finding enough improvement to better this effort next season.

By contrast, Central House would probably have preferred a shade more cut in the ground and it seems as though he simply isn’t quick enough to live with the best horses over this trip on decent ground. However, having disappointed at the Festival on more than one occasion in the past, this was at least a solid performance in the circumstances.

Time may show that this wasn’t a vintage Queen Mother Chase but the race will always be remembered as it proved to be Moscow Flyer’s last - the horse was honorably retired shortly after crossing the line in fifth.

One of the great debates throughout the winter had centered on whether or not Moscow Flyer could recapture his best form and go retain his crown. However, whilst he ran a solid enough race, he was nowhere near his best and connections did the right thing in calling it a day with the horse still in one piece. By finishing where he did he at least earned himself one last trip to the hallowed winners’ enclosure.

Few performers have deserved a long and happy retirement more than this wonderful champion. He is quite simply one of the all time greats.

Watson Lake was the only other finisher.

Of the casualties, River City looked the unluckiest. His shrewd trainer had been confident of a big run before the race and had he stood up he would surely have been in the first three. He certainly seems to have more speed than the second and third and so could have got closer to the winner. He’ll surely win a big race on his favoured fast ground, and could be interesting if making it back to this race in one piece net year.

It may be harsh to put Kato Star’s fall down to inexperience as he was looking right into the sun as he approached the obstacle and appeared to guess at it. However, his price did seem to be very short for a horse with so few outings over fences, who had never run in a race this competitive, on this sort of ground, over fences these stiff. However, he remains an outstanding prospect.

Roll of Honour (1959-1988)

(recent winners detailed towards top of page)

Queen Mother Champion Chase since 1980; previously National Hunt Two Mile Champion Chase from when first run in 1959.

Year Winner Age/Wt Jockey Trainer SP Ran

1988 Pearlyman 9-12-00 Tom Morgan John Edwards 15/8F

1987 Pearlyman 8-12-00 Peter Scudamore John Edwards 13/8F

1986 Buck House 8-12-00 Tommy Carmody Mouse Morris IRE 5/2

1985 Badsworth Boy 10-12-00 Robert Earnshaw Monica Dickinson 11/8

1984 Badsworth Boy 9-12-00 Robert Earnshaw Michael Dickinson 8/13F

1983 Badsworth Boy 8-12-00 Robert Earnshaw Michael Dickinson 2/1

1982 Rathgorman 10-12-00 Kevin Whyte Michael Dickinson 100/30

1981 Drumgora 9-12-00 Frank Berry Arthur Moore IRE 25/1

1980 *Another Dolly 10-12-00 Sam Morshead Fred Rimell 33/1

1979 Hilly Way 9-12-00 Mr Ted Walsh Peter McCreery IRE 7/1

1978 Hilly Way 8-12-00 Tommy Carmody Peter McCreery IRE 7/1

1977 Skymas 12-12-00 Mouse Morris Brian Lusk IRE 7/2

1976 Skymas 11-12-00 Mouse Morris Brian Lusk IRE 8/1

1975 Lough Inagh 8-12-00 Sean Barker Jim Dreaper IRE 100/30

1974 Royal Relief 10-12-00 Bill Smith Edward Courage 6/1

1973 Inkslinger 6-12-00 Tommy Carberry Dan Moore IRE 6/1

1972 Royal Relief 8-12-00 Bill Smith Edward Courage 15/8

1971 Crisp 8-12-00 Paul Kelleway Fred Winter 3/1

1970 Straight Fort 7-12-00 Pat Taaffe Tom Dreaper IRE 7/4F

1969 Muir 10-12-00 Ben Hannon Tom Dreaper IRE 15/2

1968 Drinny’s Double 10-12-00 Frank Nash Bob Turnell 6/1

1967 Drinny’s Double 9-12-00 Frank Nash Bob Turnell 7/2

1966 Flyingbolt 7-12-00 Pat Taaffe Tom Dreaper IRE 1/5F

1965 Dunkirk 8-12-00 Dave Dick Peter Cazalet 8/1

1964 Ben Stack 7-12-00 Pat Taaffe Tom Dreaper IRE 2/1

1963 Sandy Abbot 8-12-00 Stan Mellor George Owen 5/1

1962 Piperton 8-12-00 Dave Dick Archie Thomlinson 100/6

1961 Fortria 9-12-00 Pat Taaffe Tom Dreaper IRE 2/5F

1960 Fortria 8-12-00 Pat Taaffe Tom Dreaper IRE 15/8F

1959 Quita Que 10-12-00 Bunny Cox Dan Moore IRE 4/9F

*Another Dolly finished second to Chinrullah, who was subsequently disqualified after failing a post-race urine test.

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