Last year's Champion Chase was decimated after Altior and Chacun Pour Soi were pulled out at the last minute and Defi Du Seuil failed to deliver when huge odds-on. This year sees Chacun head the market again after looking imperious so far this season. The Rich Ricci colours look to have a banker on their hands if injury is avoided unlike last year.
The way Chacun takes lengths out of the field at the fences is a sight to behold and you'd expect him to approach the hill still on the bridle whilst his rivals are all hard at work. The only negative you could possibly find is that he has never run at Cheltenham before, that should be put to bed on the Wednesday afternoon though.
Last year's winner, Politlogue looked simply sensational when landing the Tingle Creek this season, although there is an argument to suggest that the race this year may have too much quality compared to last year's renewal. That won't bother his trainer Paul Nicholls who we know will have him primed for this, he was rather disappointing recently though, beaten seven lengths by First Flow in the Clarence House.
Altior is an unusually big price, but a surprising second at Kempton at Christmas tempered expectations and with his second run of the season cancelled due to the weather the legendary horse goes into race with a seeming lack of prep. No one would begrudge him one last hurrah up that hill with Nico punching the air as he crosses the line in first place however.
Looking at the rest of the field, Nube Negra looks a big price after downing Altior in the Desert Orchid at Christmas and Dan Skelton has been bullish about his chances stating - “Nothing frightens me with the way the race is going to be run with Nube Negra, because I've got a confident feeling we're the fastest horse in the race”. Kim Bailey's nine-year-old First Flow provided a flawless performance in the Clarence House and must be respected.
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Altior (2/1) will be looking to make historic back-to-back-to-back Champion Chase titles, but his prep this year has been hampered to say the least.
His unbeaten run was ended when stepping up in trip against Paul Nicholls' Cyrname at Ascot and a spate of entries were left unfulfilled due to injury.
A third Game Spirit Chase victory restored some faith that Henderson's star chaser is still the one to beat, he hit his usual flat spot during the race, but after clearing the last his renowned turn of foot saw him fly past Dynamite Dollars and Sceau Royal.
History awaits should he land a 3rd Champion Chase and 5th Cheltenham victory.
Defi Du Seuil (2/1) is by far the biggest danger to Altior with the Philip Hobbs runner set for a mouth-watering clash against his older rival.
Defi has Cheltenham form, having won the Triumph and JLT previously.
He's currently three from three this season, having won the Tingle Creek and Clarence House Chase, beating Un De Sceaux in wonderful fashion in both.
A tilt at the Ryanair has been shelved by Hobbs - "He's been competing at two miles all season and he's won all of his races, so it makes sense to run him in the Champion Chase".
Defi notoriously loves the soft ground and with the recent weather in the UK his favoured turf may well be just that on day two.
Chacun Pour Soi (11/4) is likely to run a big race if fit, having beaten Defi Du Seuil at Punchestown last May, and aside from a minor setback in a thriller to A Plus Tard at the Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown, he bounced back with a four length success over Min in the Dublin Chase.
After that victory Willie was bullish over his chances: "His jumping was electric.
Jumping those fences down the back he was so slick and so fast.
He was getting a length or a length-and-a-half at every fence without any effort."
Altior vs Defi Du Seuil vs Chacun Pour Soi going head-to-head in the showcase race on day two, it's absolutely what Cheltenham is all about and it has race fans on the edge of their seats thinking about it.
|Bun Doran||67.00 66/1 6600|
|Sceau Royal||21.00 20/1 2000|
|Politologue||21.00 20/1 2000|
|Dynamite Dollars||15.00 14/1 1400|
|Defi Du Seuil||2.10 11/10 110|
|Chacun Pour Soi||2.37 11/8 137|
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