Un De Sceaux well fancied for Queen Mother Champion Chase glory
Harry Preston | March 15, 2016
In what seems to be one of the most exciting renewals of Champion Chases in previous years, Willie Mullins’ exciting chaser Un De Sceaux (8/11) heads the betting with Coral having won every race he has completed.
However, this is far from a one-horse race especially if the odds-on shot’s jumping isn’t up to scratch. Nicky Henderson’s 2013 victor and stable star Sprinter Sacre (4/1) reappears in what would be arguably the most popular winner of the week, while Paul Nicholls saddles last year’s Champion Chaser Dodging Bullets (10/1).
The other previous winner in the field is Gary Moore’s Sire de Grugy (12/1), who hasn’t quite managed to reproduce his 2014 form.
Sceaux dominant in victory and defeat
Trained by Mullins, Un De Sceaux is a banker for many as he boasts a hugely impressive chasing record as well as destroying a talented Arkle field last year at the same course and distance. God’s Own (20/1) was second to him that day but Tom George’s eight-year-old hasn’t recorded a win since November 2014 and it is hard to see him reversing the form.
There are some doubts over the short-priced favourite. Firstly, his fall in the Paddy Power Chase in December wouldn’t fill any favourite-backer with confidence, however he was clear at the last there and looked very impressive. He made amends by putting in an excellent display of jumping to win the Clarence House at Ascot since then.
Secondly, his mount Ruby Walsh normally sends him out to make all, but he might have some competition for the lead from fellow Irish raider Special Tiara (10/1).
Henry de Bromhead’s charge is fancied to make the running after leading for most of the way in the Tingle Creek before being badly hampered at the last and finishing a diminishing length behind Sire de Grugy in December.
This may not suit Un De Sceaux, but if Walsh manages to settle him early rather than taking Special Tiara on for the lead it shouldn’t be a decisive factor.
A Mullins 1-2?
Mullins withdrew Vautour, the antepost second-favourite, in favour of saddling Felix Younger (14/1), who has strong each-way claims having won both races since his seasonal reappearance, and proving particularly effective over the shorter two-mile trip.
Given the likely early pace from Special Tiara and Felix Younger’s proven stamina over two-and-a-half miles, we may see him staying on to give the Kilkenny handler a 1-2 in the most prestigious chase of the week.
However, he still has an entry in the Ryanair Chase on Thursday so it may be left to the two 10-year-olds, Sire de Grugy and Sprinter Sacre, to challenge Un De Sceaux for the crown.
Will we see a champion of old return to form?
The closest challenger in the market is Sprinter Sacre who has suffered a number of setbacks resulting in him pulling up here last year.
Despite these injuries, it seems Nicky Henderson has got him somewhere near his best again following a brilliant reappearance in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham, before grinding out the final furlong to beat his old rival Sire de Grugy by three parts of length in the Desert Orchid.
Both of these household names would be extremely popular winners given their past successes in the race, but it would be no surprise to see the in-form Nicholls go close with last year’s victor.
Dodging Bullets was beaten on his reappearance by rookie trainer Kerry Lee’s Top Gamble. However, this run will have done the 2015 champion a world of good and no doubt Nicholls will have him primed for this as we could witness the first successive winner of the race since 2009 when he claimed it with Master Minded.
Doom Bar Chase winner Sizing Granite (20/1), veteran Somersby (40/1) and rank outsider Just Cameron (100/1) make up the 10-strong field.
Should Ruby Walsh be unable to stay on his hugely talented, but erratic, mount then we may see an old Cheltenham hero get cheered into the winner’s enclosure.
Un De Sceaux undeniably has the ability to win this and we may see him obliterate his rivals, however there is enough class in this field to potentially make it the race of the Festival.