Cheltenham Festival Tips | Ante-Post Preview | Champion Chase | 16th March


IT’S his favourite race of the season, but who is Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) backing for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

Betway Champion Chase | 16th March | Channel 4

My favourite race of the season and it looks like being a fantastic renewal. We have two former champions returning to try regain their crown and last year’s winner hopefully back to defend his title but standing in their way is the new kid on the block who looks like being a tough nut to crack.

Let’s start with Sprinter Sacre. He had well publicised heart problems two seasons ago which robbed us of him in his prime but he’s back to somewhere near his best now and looks like the horse to beat on this season’s form.

He was breathtakingly good on his seasonal debut and showed his battling qualities last time when he beat Sire De Grugy in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.

As much as I would love to see him win this I can’t back him at 4/1. Though I expect him to be involved in the finish I have reservations about what he has achieved since he’s returned and I am looking elsewhere for my selection.

Sire De Grugy is another former winner coming back here and after last seasons wash out he looks back to somewhere near his best. He won well at Sandown before being out battled by Sprinter Sacre at Kempton but I don’t think he will win this.

Cheltenham doesn’t bring out the best in SDG and I expect him to struggle here. I have a feeling his season has reached it’s peak and I think his rivals will improve past him in the spring.

Special Tiara was third in this race last season and won the Grade 1 Celebration Chase at Sandown in April. After a below par return to action he was a slightly unlucky loser behind Sire De Grugy at Sandown, and with a history of him showing his best form in the spring it’s likely that he will improve past him.

Anyone looking for an each way bet in this could do worse than backing him as he’s younger than SDG and Sprinter Sacre and it’s possible he will have their measure come March.

Dodging Bullets won this last season in good style, but the race rather fell apart for him and I’m not sure how strong that form is. More worrying than that is we are yet to see him since with injury prevented him from running in the Tingle Creek.

It’s still unclear whether we will see him before Cheltenham or not and he’s not a betting proposition for me with too many question marks surrounding him.

This leaves us with the favourite Un De Sceaux. Unbeaten when completing his races he has fallen twice in his last six races, on both occasions he was a heavily odds on favourite.

Other than that he has won every race almost effortlessly and in my opinion if he stands up he wins this. Had he have won over Christmas the chances are he would be odds on to win this so the fact he is available at 7/4 is a bonus in my opinion.

He has won round Cheltenham before which offers reassurance over his jumping and it could be that jumping in a championship race will help focus him.

He is due to run at Ascot in late-January against Sire De Grugy and when he wins that, which I’m confident he will, I expect him to be trading around 4/6 for the Champion Chase.

Best Bets

Champion Chase 2016 – Un De Sceaux to win (7/4 William Hill)

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About Author

Profile photo of graemejohnston

I grew up watching Hearts games with my dad and playing football at every opportunity so betting on it was the logical next step! Football coupons became a Saturday ritual and it introduced me into the world of horse racing. I started watching it on a regular basis, and after Galileo's Derby win in 2001 I was hooked. I follow both flat and national hunt racing attending the northern meetings when possible.

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