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2015 Champion Chase tips - Sprinter Sacre to regain Cheltenham Festival crown in Wednesday highlight

Can Sprinter Sacre regain his Champion Chase crown?

The Champion Chase on Wednesday has all the hallmarks of a classic renewal with two former champions in opposition to reigning champion Sire De Grugy.

The undoubted highlight of day two at the Cheltenham Festival is without doubt the Queen Mother Champion Chase, which this years sees the champions of three of the last four renewals lock horns.

The two-mile contest is always a fascinating affair, and the three in question each haven’t had their troubles to seek having endured difficult build-ups to this latest renewal.

The latest renewal, due off at 3.20pm on Wednesday has attracted a field of 11 runners for the top-class contest, and we assess the runners who’ll go to post.

CHAMPAGNE FEVER (11/2, Coral)

Boasts a strong Cheltenham record for Willie Mullins, winning the Champion Bumper and Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in subsequent seasons before just being touched off in the Arkle twelve months ago.

Willie Mullins’ charge won on his return to action in the Clonmel Oils Chase, where Sizing Europe was disappointing, and failed to stay three miles when fourth behind Siliviniaco Conti in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

Dropped back in trip next time, he just looked to be coming off worst in the argument with Don Cossack in the Grade Two Kinloch Brae Chase when falling at the last, but bounced back to easily land the Red Mills Chase, also a Grade Two, by four lengths from Texas Jack, jumping well and not extended.

The Stowaway gelding faces a sterner test of his credentials now, but his record here – all over two miles – makes him a serious contender, and he could take advantage of any lapses.


Champagne Fever (grey horse) is a dual-Festival winner and an intruiging contender back down to the minimum distance.

DODGING BULLETS (11/2, Paddy Power)

Smart novice chaser last term, but he’s never fully convinced at the Festival in two prior starts, running down the field in the 2013 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and then fourth in the Arkle last season.

He’s posted some cracking efforts this term though, winning the Tingle Creek at Sandown and then lowering the colours of the returning Sprinter Sacre in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot last time.

Paul Nicholls’ charge is entitled to go well, being a past course and distance winner and is dangerous to discount; but a poor record at Festival time and a tendency to see his form tail off in the spring mark him out to be a somewhat risky proposition, and for all he has solid claims on form, he might  underachieve again.


Dodging Bullets has posted solid form, but his Festival record is poor.

MR MOLE (9/1, Paddy Power

Another Paul Nicholls runner, Mr Mole has seen his form reach new heights since switching to forcing tactics, winning four on the spin including when beating Sire De Grugy (beaten when fell) in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury last time.

A faller in last season’s Grand Annual, the JP McManus-owned gelding might face competiton here for the lead with Champagne Fever also not one to hang about, while he’ll have to raise his game again if he’s to be successful.

However, he can’t be taken lightly in his current vein of form, and no surprise to see a big run.


Mr Mole has been a revelation since adopting front-running tactics.


Won the Grand Annual twelve months ago in which Mr Mole fell, and then posted a solid third behind Sizing Europe in the Irish Champion Chase at Punchestown after.

Tony Martin’s gelding hasn’t fired in two starts this term though, failing to beat a rival home behind Twinlight in the Dial-A-Bet Chase, and could only manage fourth over hurdles last time out.

Although smart on his day, he faces a huge task to get competitive here.

SIMPLY NED (20/1, Coral)

A smart performer for Nicky Richards, finishing runner-up behind Balder Succes in last season’s Maghull Novices’ Chase, the Fruits Of Love gelding kickstarted his season with a win at Kelso before going on to finish runner-up behind Uxizandre in the Listed Shloer Chase next time, where Dodging Bullets was third.

He didn’t jump particularly well on that occasion, so his finishing position is highly creditable, and he wasn’t disgraced behind Twinlight in the Dial-A-Bet when finishing third.

Entitled to take his chance, he should run well at a big price, although difficult to see him having sufficient improvement to mount a serious challenge and he would be a surprise winner.

SIRE DE GRUGY (3/1, Bet365)

The reigning champion made the most of the absence of Sprinter Sacre last year, winning six of his seven starts including in this race twelve months ago, and winning four Grade One contests in all.

Sole defeat came behind Kid Cassidy at this venue, and he has endured a troubled season with injury that curtailed his return to action until the Game Spirit Chase where he unseated behind Mr Mole at the third-last, although he was beaten at the time.

He could do no more than win at Chepstow last month, beating a small field of handicappers with plenty in hand, but faces a different proposition now in his championship defence, and three quick runs in succession may not be an ideal preparation for Gary Moore’s charge.

He remains a big player though, and is sure to be in the shake-up, but may need a slice of fortune to retain his championship.


Current champion Sire De Grugy faces some stiff opposition in defence of his title.

SIZING EUROPE (50/1, William Hill)

Admirable veteran who boasts an excellent record in this event, winning in 2011, and finishing runner up in 2012 and 2013, although was perhaps unfortunate not to win in 2012.

Henry de Bromhead’s charge could only muster fourth in this race last term, but bounced back to win the Irish Champion Chase at the Punchestown Festival, and he beat Road To Riches on his comeback run at Gowran Park in his now-traditional pipe-opener, the Pwc Champion Chase.

Floundered on the heavy ground at Clonmel next time in the Clonmel Oils, where he stopped quickly, and he hasn’t been seen since.

The Pistolet Bleu gelding does go well fresh though, and no surprise to see him make a bold bid, although the old legs are likely to be vulnerable back at the minimum distance and difficult to see him rolling back the years against this opposition.


The veteran Sizing Europe has a fine record in this race, but is surely vulnerable to younger horses.

SOMERSBY (40/1, Bet365)

A regular in the top two-mile events, finishing runner-up in the Arkle won by Sizing Europe, and chased home Sire De Grugy in this contest twelve months ago.

He has shown some mixed form this season, posting creditable runner-up efforts behind Al Ferof in the Amlin Chase, and behind Dodging Bullets in the Tingle Creek after a poor return to action in the Haldon Gold Cup, but ran poorly in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot on his last outing.

Mick Channon’s gelding is likely to give his running again, but he has never won at this venue and so it is hard to make a case for the win; and likely place claims at best for the Second Empire gelding, although he’ll probably need a one or two to underperform if he’s to make the frame.

SPECIAL TIARA (25/1, Coral)

Smart front-runner at his best who regained winning ways at Kempton on Boxing Day, beating Balder Succes after setting a searing gallop and holding on gamely to post a first win in more than a year.

Often placed at a slightly lower level, Henry de Bromhead’s second runner was sixth in this event twelve months ago, before again finding Sire De Grugy too strong in the Celebration Chase at Sandown after, finishing third.

His best run prior to that Kempton success was a fourth-place finish behind Twinlight in the Fortria Chase at Navan, and likely to be found wanting back in this grade. He could contest the lead with Mr Mole and Champagne Fever, but difficult to see him lasting home.

SPRINTER SACRE (5/2, Bet365)

Imperious chaser, winning ten chases in succession in grand style, and put in perhaps the most impressive performance seen in this race for many a year when annihilating his field to land the Champion Chase crown in 2013.

Nicky Henderson’s Network gelding suffered an irregular heartbeat during his comeback run last term in the Desert Orchid chase where he was subsequently pulled up, and treated with kid gloves after, was off the track for more than a year before returning to post a solid effort behind Dodging Bullets in the Clarence House Chase where he was travelling well but ultimately tenderly handled.

While his jumping on the day wasn’t as fluid or exuberant as it was at his imperious best, he gave the impression he would improve for that first run, and showed enough of his old self to believe he’ll come on for the outing; if he does, he’ll prove difficult to beat and he should go close in his quest to regain his crown.


Sprinter Sacre can build on his Ascot comeback, and is capable of regaining his crown.

VERDICT

Defending champion Sire De Grugy has endured a troubled campaign, suffering an injury that had kept him out of action for some time, and he stepped up on a lacklustre return in the Game Spirit at Newbury to rout a small field of handicappers at Chepstow.

Three runs in quick succession might not be the ideal preparation for Gary Moore’s star, and he won what was possibly an ordinary Champion Chase twelve months ago. He’ll face a whole different challenge in Willie Mullins’ Champagne Fever who is an interesting runner returned to the minimum trip, and also SPRINTER SACRE (5/2, Bet365) who should build on a solid return to action at Ascot recently.

The former champion hasn’t had his troubles to seek since pulling up at Kempton, but he’s been nursed back to health by Nicky Henderson, and showed at Ascot that much of his old pomp still remains. He’s been the subject of encouraging reports at home, and if improving as expected, he should regain his crown in what would be a remarkable training performance.

QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE SELECTION – SPRINTER SACRE (5/2, Bet365)


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2015 Champion Chase tips - Sprinter Sacre to regain Cheltenham Festival crown in Wednesday highlight

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is sure to be an intruiging clash between reigning champion Sire De Grugy, and former winner Sprinter Sacre. Both have had their troubles, and with the addition of Champagne Fever, it is shaping up to be a classic contest.

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