Felix Younger Can Upset Queen Mother Odds
Queen Mother Champion Chase
Willie Mullins followers will be looking towards Un De Sceaux as one of their “bankers” of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, and punters looking to get involved now can take 4/6 in the knowledge that it is Non Runner Cash Back.
De Sceaux Champion Elect?
Before contemplating such odds, investors may be interested as to how odds-on shots performed in this race down the years, and a glance back to 1997 shows that two triumphed from five runners.
That more than suggests Un De Sceaux is beatable, despite winning five of his seven chase outings. One of those wins came in last season’s Arkle here, and his 5l defeat of Sire De Grugy at Ascot last month showed he retains all his class.
The one niggling doubt is that Un De Sceaux fell twice, on both occasions when making his seasonal reappearance. There can be no doubting his class as a four-time Grade 1 winner, but the fact remains he won only once outside of novice company (at Ascot), and will be bumping into some real seasoned pros this time around at Cheltenham.
De Grugy Back For More
The 2014 Champion Chase winner Sire De Grugy will again be in the line-up following his fourth in the race 12 months ago, and offers each-way at 12/1, though Un De Sceaux’s stablemate Vautour could rate the biggest danger at 5/2.
Vautour was also a novice chase winner at the 2015 festival when landing the JLT (2m4f), and has improved in both outings this term, including a narrow defeat in the King George at Kempton last time (3m). The big question is whether he will run over this shorter trip, or over further in the Ryanair, but taking a price won’t be a risk as the 5/2 comes with a guaranteed Non Runner Cash Back.
Sprinter Still Has The Speed
One who won’t mind this 2m trip on what is traditionally decent ground is Nicky Henderson’s, Sprinter Sacre (9/2). The 2012 Arkle winner returned to win this race 12 months later, prior to a slight drop in form. However, he has returned in superb form this season, holding on to beat Sire De Grugy in a Grade 2 at Kempton over Christmas (2m), and looks top three material.
Another with history in the race is the defending champion Dodging Bullets, who hasn’t been seen since that famous win 12 months ago.
It will be a tough ask for him to win this again following such an absence, though any money in the run-up to the race could be a clue to his wellbeing.
Tiara To Add Crown?
There are undoubtedly a number of “ifs and buts” surrounding the market leaders, suggesting a possible shock, which almost happened in last year’s renewal when Special Tiara was beaten only 3l into third at 18/1. His odds for March 16th are currently 12/1, and his 3/4l second to Sire De Grugy in Sandown’s Tingle Creek shows the ability is still there.
Elsewhere, Simonsig is 14/1 following his comeback second to Bobs Worth at Aintree in November, but he may need further these days, though Felix Yonger won a couple of Grade 2’s over this trip the last twice, and cannot be written off.
Un De Sceaux is undoubtedly the class act, but with three of the last five odds-on runners beaten in this race, Felix Yonger could represent better each-way value at 14/1. Although a 10yo, he has improved to win his last two races, handles decent ground and has gone well at the festival twice before when runner-up and fourth.
*Prices correct at time of publication