2016 Cheltenham Festival: Is Un De Sceaux a true Champion?
David Metcalf | February 22, 2016
Un De Sceaux set for Cheltenham success?
Un De Sceaux is considered by many to be the rising star in the 2m chasing ranks and is currently odds-on 4/6 favourite with Coral for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday, March 16th. But is he really entitled to be so short in the betting?
Trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins, the eight year-old is unbeaten in the 14 races he has completed under rules.
Un De Sceaux has won five of his seven completed starts over fences and was impressive when landing last year’s Arkle Challenge Trophy by six lengths.
However, he blotted his copybook on seasonal reappearance when falling at the second-last at Leopardstown when still in front and travelling well and was not the first time that his tearaway front running tactics had been his downfall.
Back on track in Clarence House
Un De Sceaux then got back on track when making all to win the Clarence House Chase at Ascot by five lengths, jumping well and economically throughout and drawing clear on the run-in to score with plenty in hand from Sire De Grugy.
However, Sire De Grugy may not have been beaten as far had he not tried to go with Un De Sceaux and Gary Moore’s star finished just a short-head in front of stable companion Traffic Fluide who had been rated just 154 going into the contest.
That puts a doubt in my mind as to the strength of the form, and the form of his win in last year’s Arkle has also not worked out well.
Arkle form not worked out well
Arkle runner-up God’s Own hasn’t won since, and the third home Josses Hill is a dodgy jumper who did incredibly well to be beaten just eight lengths after some costly errors and has won just once since the race.
The fourth home Vibrato Valtat has also won just once, and been firmly put in his place this season by the likes of Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre.
To me it’s easy to pick holes in the form of both the Arkle and the Clarence House does not look strong, and I am still not convinced that Un De Sceaux is the type that can find a leg to get of of trouble when meeting a fence on the wrong stride.
Early stages of Queen Mother crucial
If something is able to serve it up to him early doors in the Queen Mother then it will be interesting to see if Un De Sceaux can get into a decent rhythm or gets hassled and starts guessing at the obstacles.
There will certainly be plenty waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces if it’s a case of the latter, including the rejuvenated Sprinter Sacre who won the race in scintillating style in 2014 and is rated just 2lb below Un De Sceaux. At his peak, Sprinter was rated 16lb higher.
The Queen Mother will also be by far the most stiffest task that Un de Sceaux has faced, and whilst he is undoubtedly a class act, there are enough doubts in my mind to suggest he is plenty short enough in the betting and worth taking on at Cheltenham Festival.