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Cheltenham Festival: The Ultimate Guide - 2021-03-05

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Chacun can deliver the spoils

WEDNESDAY 3.05 BETWAY QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE

Dave Randall

Altior Phenomenal talent who is showing signs that the ageing process is beginning to catch up with him. Suffered his first defeat over this 2m trip over fences behind Nube Negra at Kempton in December and has now turned 11. The son of High Chaparral is five from five on this course, including four festival Grade 1s, namely the 2016 Supreme, 2017 Arkle and the 2018 and 2019 Champion Chases. In his pomp in 2018, he slammed Min by seven lengths in this race, and anything approaching the 183 RPR he registered that day would see him regain his title. Forced to miss the race late in the day last year, though, and backers are reliant on Nicky Henderson using all of his considerable talent and experience to coax his stable star back to the required standard. Chacun Pour Soi Six from seven over fences since joining Willie Mullins from Emmanuel Clayeux in France in 2016, including four Irish Grade 1s between 2m and 2m1½f. The nine-year-old was a late withdrawal from this race last year, and it would make sense to wait until the day before getting financially involved, but he is a deserving favourite to complete a five-timer on his belated first racecourse appearance at Cheltenham, having come readily eight lengths clear of the 2020 Arkle runner-up Fakir D’oudairies at Leopardstown last month. Cilaos Emery Smart dual-purpose jumper who is eight from 15 for Willie Mullins. Ran fourth behind Epatante in the 2020 Champion Hurdle. Second on his reappearance over fences at Clonmel in November but won with his head in his chest in a Naas Grade 3 in February. Outside place claims in this much better race. Fakir D’oudairies Talented novice hurdler and chaser for Joseph O’brien who ran fourth as a four-year-old in the 2019 running of the Grade 1 Supreme, and then finished a gallant runner-up behind the mare Put The Kettle On in the 2020 Arkle. Produced an improved second on his third start in open chase company behind Chacun Pour Soi at Leopardstown last month and, while a reversal in form seems unlikely, he should certainly remain competitive. First Flow The Kim Bailey-trained nine-year-old was pulled up in the 2018 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but caused something of a shock when completing a rare six-timer over fences on his return to the top table in Ascot’s 2m1f Grade 1 Clarence House Chase in January, with 2020 Champion Chase winner Politologue in behind. The son of Primary goes particularly well on soft ground or worse and isn’t one to dismiss too readily granted favourable conditions. Greaneteen A solid second string for Paul Nicholls who is four from seven over fences and has taken his form to a new level this season. The seven-year-old won the Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup Handicap Chase over 2m1½f off a mark of 151 at Exeter in November, finished second behind stablemate Politologue in the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and then ran third behind Sceau Royal in the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase at Newbury last month. Likely to peak on the day and could reward support for a place at decent odds if doing so. Notebook One of two entries for Henry de Bromhead and arrives with a record of five wins from eight starts over fences. The eight-year-old took his form to a new level when beating Fakir D’oudairies by a dozen lengths on his reappearance in Grade 2 company at Naas in November, and reproduced the form when second behind Chacun Pour Soi in Grade 1 company at Leopardstown over Christmas. Finished behind Fakir D’oudairies when third and much further behind Chacun Pour Soi back at Leopardstown last month, however, and needs to bounce back on a course where he is yet to shine in two starts. Nube Negra Improving seven-year-old representing Dan Skelton who finished second in Grade 1 novice company behind Esprit Du Large on his third start over fences at Sandown in December 2019 and then ran second in the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase in February 2020 behind Rouge Vif. Missed the festival last year and not seen out again until causing a real stir by becoming the first horse to lower Altior’s colours at 2m over fences in the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas. Need only reproduce that level of form to be in the mix and ran with credit as a juvenile hurdler at the 2018 festival. Politologue Popular grey representing Paul Nicholls. Ran fourth behind Yorkhill in the Grade 1 2m4f novice chase at this meeting in 2017, reached the same position behind Altior in the 2018 Champion Chase, and then lost out by less than two lengths to the same rival in 2019. Altior and Chacun Pour Soi were notable absentees, while Defi Du Seuil ran no sort of race, when dominating the 2020 Champion Chase, but also doubled up on his 2017 victory in Sandown’s Grade 1 Tingle Creek in December. Capable of getting competitive again following a small break since his respectable Grade 1 second behind First Flow at Ascot in January. Put The Kettle On Considered the stable first string for Henry de Bromhead, given the level of course form she brings to the table in receipt of her 7lb mares’ allowance. The seven-year-old daughter of Stowaway is six from eight over fences, including the 2020 Grade 1 Arkle and the Grade 2 Shloer Chase back here on her reappearance in November. Limitations seemingly exposed when third behind Chacun Pour Soi at Leopardstown over Christmas, but goes well fresh and live place claims, particularly on drying ground. Rouge Vif Seven-year-old representing Harry Whittington who seems more ground dependent than most. Impressed ahead of Nube Negra in Warwick’s Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase in February 2020, but well held on the soft ground in the Arkle, before taking apart a field of handicappers off 156 over this course and distance on good ground on his reappearance in October. Below-par on winter ground since, but did reach third in Sandown’s Grade 1 Tingle Creek behind Politologue, and clearly one to note if the ground dries out. Sceau Royal Likeable nine-year-old representing Alan King who is at his best when the emphasis is more on speed away from winter ground. The son of Doctor Dino is a classy eight from 20 over hurdles, including two wins in Wincanton’s Grade 2 Elite Hurdle, and went six from 15 over fences with his Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase success at Newbury last month ahead of Champ. He matched the level of form he showed when third to Altior in the 2019 running of this race on that occasion, and the drier the ground, the more his each-way appeal will grow. VERDICT Punters looking for a bit of each-way value will have plenty of options in a race where the state of the ground on the day will prove a significant factor in such deliberations. Taking a chance on Nicky Henderson rekindling Altior’s enthusiasm is one such option, and it isn’t as if the wheels have come off the vehicle, more his cloak of invincibility is slipping. Chacun Pour Soi deserves to be considered the most likely winner at this stage, and is the selection, but using the widely available non-runner no bet option is advisable, if not waiting until the day itself when some firms may wish to take him on at bigger prices than the current 5-4. Nube Negra became the first horse to defeat Altior over the minimum trip over fences and he is considered the best each-way option at this stage. 1 Chacun Pour Soi 2 Nube Negra (each-way) 3 Altior

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