A stats-based preview by Will Reilly of the Queen Mother Champion Chase, which will be run at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday March 11th, 2020, at 3:30pm.
Altior has won the race for the last two years and, even though he hasn’t had the ideal preparation this season, he showed his wellbeing when landing the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury on February 8th, a race he also won in 2017 and 2018 before going on to Cheltenham glory.
Despite a defeat by Cyrname at Ascot in November when he was initially being prepared for the King George VI Chase, Altior clearly retains a huge amount of ability and, remarkably, is unbeaten in five runs at Cheltnham, four of them in a Festival race (the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2016, the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 2017 and the Queen Mother Champion Chase in each of the last two years).
Fate Of The Favourites
In the last 31 stagings of the Champion Chase, there have been:
- 14 winning favourites
- Nine of these have come in the last 17 Queen Mothers
- In eight of these, the favourite has finished unplaced
Tingle Creek Chase
Much has been made of Sandown’s Tingle Creek Chase as being a good guide to the winner of Champion Chase winner:
- Nine of the last 17 Tingle Creek winners have gone on to land the Champion Chase in the same season as their Sandown victory
- Ten of the last 16 winners took part in the Tingle Creek in the same season that they won the Champion Chase, so it is as an interesting stat.
- This year’s Tingle Creek winner, and Champion Chase contender, was Defi Du Seuil, who is set to oppose Altior at the Festival; he won at the Festival last year in the JLT Novices’ Chase, having also won the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Festival in 2017, but he finished fifth in the ‘Arkle’ at the 2018 Festival; in total, he has won six times from eight runs at Cheltenham
Ireland has won six of the last 15 Champion Chases, having previously won it only once between 1988 and 2002 (Klairon Davis in 1996).
There are six dual winners in our sample – Barnbrook Again (1989-90), Viking Flagship (1994-95), Moscow Flyer (2003 and 2005), Master Minded (2008-09), Sprinter Sacre (2013 and 2016) and Altior (2018-19).
Altior’s trainer, Nicky Henderson, also trainer Sprinter Sacre and has, in total, won the ‘Queen Mother’ six times, including five of the last eight.
Age, Price, Winning Distance and other stats
The breakdown of winning ages from the last 31 runnings:
- Eight-year-olds, 11 wins
- Nine-year-olds, seven wins
- Seven-year-olds, five wins
- Ten-year-olds have, though, won two of the last four Champion Chases – Sprinter Sacre (2016) and Special Tiara (2017).
- This means that 18 of the 31 winners were aged eight or nine.
Only five of the 31 winners were returned at double-figure prices, and only eight of them were returned at 5/1 or bigger.
These do, however, include four of the last ten – Big Zeb (10/1, 2010), Sizing Europe (10/1, 2011), Sprinter Sacre (5/1, 2016) and Special Tiara (11/1, 2017)
A total of 22 of the winners in our sample had previously won at Cheltenham, with nine of them being Arkle winners at the Festival.
In fact, seven of the last 16 winners had landed the Arkle in their novice season. Last year’s Arkle winner is Duc des Genievres.
From our sample, horses to have been beaten in the Arkle and then go on to win the Champion Chase the following season are Barnbrook Again (third in the 1988 Arkle), Deep Sensation (fourth in the 1992 Arkle) and Dodging Bullets (4th in the 2014 Arkle).
- In each of the last seven seasons, a horse priced at 16/1 or bigger has finished in the first three, with five of them carrying an SP of 20/1 or bigger.
- The race’s second-favourite has finished runner-up in three of the last eleven stagings of the race and the favourite has finished runner-up on two occasions.
- In ten of the last eleven years, the winning distance has been seven lengths or shorter; on the other occasion it was 19 lengths (Master Minded in 2008).
Altior must have another very good chance, not least because his trainer, Nicky Henderson, has such a good record in the contest.
Defi Du Seuil’s profile for the race is also strong, although supporters of Chacun Pour Soi need to be aware that this is one of the very few big races that Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins has yet to win.
Working on the principle that a big-priced horse is likely to make the frame (based on stats, that is) then last year’s runner-up, Politologue, or last year’s ‘Arkle’ winner, Duc Des Genievres, could be the ones.
Personally, I would prefer the former over the latter as Duc Des Genievres has shown little in the way of form this year.
Overall, it has to be ALTIOR (15/8) to win again, followed home by Defi Du Seuil, with Politologue nabbing third.
A winning distance of seven lengths or less would also be worth playing if you can get a price on that, which seems unlikely.
Getting a price on a specific horse to win by seven lengths or less might be a better way to go.