Willie Mullins Dominates the Champion Chase Entry

Tagged under: Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase
Published: 14:21 14/03/2016

Twelve horses remain in contention for Wednesday’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and as with so many races at this year’s festival the Closutton stable of Willie Mullins holds a vice-like grip on the two mile test of speed and jumping ability with the trainer being responsible for a third of the potential field headed by the exciting Un De Sceaux, the red-hot favourite who is a best price 8-11 with Paddy Power and William Hill to win his second race at National Hunt racing’s showcase meeting following the son of Denham Red’s impressive victory in last season’s Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase.

While it is most unlikely that the entry of the stable’s King George runner-up Vautour will be taken up, with the seven-year-old almost certain to join stablemates Djakadam and Don Poli in next Friday’s Timico Gold Cup, Mullins could also run Felix Yonger ( Sky Bet, Stan James, Coral and William Hill ) and or Twinlight ( 100-1 generally ) as a form of insurance in case anything untoward should happen to their number one hope. The only time the eight-year-old has tasted defeat in sixteen starts was when falling as a novice chase at Thurles and most recently when crashing out at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting with the race seemingly won approaching the second-last fence.

In the likely absence of Vautour the market suggests that the principal danger to the Mullins hot-pot will come from the majestic winner of the race in 2013 - Sprinter Sacre - who has had his well-documented problems since being pulled up with a heart problem at Kempton later that year and after looking a shadow of his former self last year the Network gelding is unbeaten in both starts this season, despite not looking the invincible force of old. Available at 9-2 with most bookmakers a victory for Nicky Henderson’s charge would prove the most popular of the week for his adoring fans.

Dodging Bullets - the reigning champion - is a top price 12-1 with Paddy Power, Stan James and William Hill to retain his crown but the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding will need to improve significantly on his ten length defeat at the hands of Top Gamble on his seasonal reappearance at Newbury last month if the eight-year-old is to become the first back-to-back winner of the race since the stable’s Master Minded in 2008/2009.

Last year’s third Special Tiara is a general 12-1 chance to give trainer Henry De Bromhead his second Champion Chase winner following Sizing Europe in 2011 while the 2014 victor Sire de Grugy is 14-1 with most firms to repeat the feat after managing only fourth spot 12 months ago. Last year’s Arkle runner-up God’s Own is a 25-1 chance to gain revenge on his conqueror Un De Sceaux, the same price as another potential challenger from across the Irish sea Sizing Granite, with the evergreen Somersby ( 40-1 generally ) and 100-1 northern raider Just Cameron completing the possible line-up.

By Alan Kelly

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