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Two of Jump racing’s biggest names Altior and Douvan headline 30 entries for the £400,000 G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (up from £350,000 in 2017) at Cheltenham on the second day of The Festival, Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14.
Both are two-time winners at The Festival. Altior (Nicky Henderson), the 11/8 favourite with Betway, is unbeaten in 11 starts over hurdles and fences, while Douvan’s (8/1) sole defeat in 14 starts since joining Willie Mullins came in last year’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, after which he was found to be injured. Neither has raced so far this season.
In their absence, Politologue (Paul Nicholls, 7/2) has carried all before him. Following a comfortable success over stablemate San Benedeto (33/1) in the G2 Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter in November, he defeated Fox Norton (Colin Tizzard, 10/1) by a half-length in a thrilling renewal of the G1 Betway Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park on December 9.
Politologue, now a seven-year-old, continued his winning streak with a 13-length verdict over Vaniteux in the G2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park on December 27.
Owner John Hales, whose colours were carried to victory in this race by One Man in 1998 and Azertyuiop in 2004, said: “Politologue is an improving young horse.
“We are getting him ready for the Game Spirit at Newbury on February 10, and then, all being well, he will go on to Cheltenham for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.
“He has shown this season that he is a true two miler, and not a two and a half miler. He has the cruising speed and tremendous jumping ability. The Tingle Creek meant a lot because it was a fabulous performance. His jumping was superb – quick and accurate – and I thought he won the race well.
“I am sure the horse will put up a good performance at Cheltenham. Whether we are going to be a match for Altior remains to be seen, but it is a race to look forward to.”
Paul Nicholls is the most successful current trainer in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase with five victories courtesy of Call Equiname (1999), Azertyuiop (2004), Master Minded (2008 & 2009) and Dodging Bullets (2013).
Last year’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase victor Special Tiara (Henry de Bromhead IRE, 16/1) is one of a record 17 Irish-trained entries (previous highest 14 in 2015). Stablemate Ordinary World (50/1) is also engaged.
Ireland’s champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins has nine entries in total. Joining Douvan is 2017 Ryanair Chase scorer Un De Sceaux (12/1), another dual winner at The Festival Yorkhill (6/1), plus Great Field (11/1) and Min (5/1), who both captured G1 novice contests over two miles last season.
More high-profile entries include multiple G1 winner God’s Own (Tom George, 33/1), Ar Mad (Gary Moore, 33/1) and Charbel (Kim Bailey, 25/1).
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase – Betway prices: 11/8 Altior; 7/2 Politilogue; 5/1 Min; 6/1 Yorkhill; 8/1 Douvan; 10/1 Fox Norton; 11/1 Great Field; 12/1 Un De Sceaux; 16/1 Special Tiara; 20/1 Top Notch; 25/1 Black Hercules, Charbel, Polidam, Waiting Patiently; 33/1 A Toi Phil, American Tom, Ar Mad, Cloudy Dream, Forest Bihan, God’s Own, San Benedeto, Top Gamble; 50/1 Ball D’Arc, Doctor Phoenix, Foxtail Hill, Ordinary World, Tell Us More, The Game Changer, Tully East; 66/1 Valdez. Each-way ¼ 1, 2, 3
Betway special: 2/1 Willie Mullins to train the winner
44 engaged in Ryanair Chase
Last year’s winner Un De Sceaux features among 44 entries for the £350,000 G1 Ryanair Chase (up from £300,000 in 2017), run over the intermediate distance of two miles and five furlongs on the third day of The Festival, St Patrick’s Thursday, March 15.
His trainer Willie Mullins accounts for an amazing 14 of the record 24 Irish-trained entries (previous highest 20 in 2014). Mullins also has Killultagh Vic, Yorkhill and exciting mare Benie Des Dieux among his contenders.
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, yet to win the race though he has had four seconds, is represented by eight entries in total, headed by Road To Respect, successful over the course and distance last season at The Festival, and Disko.
Nicky Henderson has three in-form entries in Top Notch, who has landed two G2 chases in good style already this season, top-class hurdler L’Ami Serge and improving handicapper Gold Present. G1 Melling Chase victor Fox Norton and past winner Cue Card represent trainer Colin Tizzard and the Malcolm Jefferson-trained pair of Cloudy Dream and Waiting Patiently are also engaged.