The feature race on Wednesday, The Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Lewis Tomlinson takes us through the card.
Day 2 featured races quick links:
13:20 Ballymore Novices Hurdle
1. Chacun Pour Soi (Paul Townend/Willie Mullins)
The highest-rated chaser in training. Won his fourth career Grade 1 with a bloodless victory in the Dublin Chase last time out, jumping well, tanking through the race on the bridle before extending his advantage when asked to put the race to bud. Fragility has been an issue in the past, and he was a last minute non-runner here last season due to injury, so is still yet to make an appearance at a Cheltenham Festival. I see no reason why he wouldn’t take to the course, though, and if he is as good here as he is at Leopardstown, he will be unstoppable.
2. Cilaos Emery (Bryan Cooper/Willie Mullins)
Had a career disrupted by injuries, but was a Grade 1 winner as a novice hurdler and has taken well to chasing, winning several small-field Graded events in Ireland across the last two seasons, as well as running fourth in the Champion Hurdle last year. He’s yet to face anything near this calibre of opposition, but it’s great to see him finally get a chance in a race of this nature and I think he may well be the second-best of these. He’s overpriced from an each-way perspective.
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3. First Flow (David Bass/Kim Bailey)
Has improved 23lbs in the ratings after winning each of his last six starts, and produced a career best to gain a maiden Grade 1 victory in the Clarence House last time out. Looks a strong stayer at the trip, and heavy ground would see him come into calculations to hit the frame, but he will lack the zip of some of these if the ground is on the better side.
4. Greaneteen (Bryony Frost/Paul Nicholls)
Fourth in the Grand Annual on only his fourth start over fences and has acquitted himself well in better company season, winning the Haldon Gold Cup and finishing second in the Tingle Creek. Seemingly had his limitations exposed last time when beaten in the Game Spirit, and this looks a bit hot for him at this stage of his career.
5. Notebook (Rachael Blackmore/Henry De Bromhead)
Dual Grade 1 winner in novice company last season and has performed at a similar level in open chases this time, winning a Naas Grade 2 on his reappearance.
No match for Chacun Pour Soi on the last two occasions, and his Cheltenham record is dreadful. That being said, I’d still give him an each-way chance, as the lack of crowd may benefit this notoriously buzzy type and his Irish form would put him in the mix for the placings.
6. Nube Negra (Harry Skelton/Dan Skelton)
A decent novice chaser last season without ever shaping as if he would be top-class. Showed a stone worth of improvement, though, to beat Altior in the Desert Orchid on his only start of the season, travelling sweetly and jumping for fun throughout.
This requires more and he might find it harder to cruise around Cheltenham in the same manner, but he has pace to burn and is less exposed than several rivals.
7. Politologue (Harry Cobden/Paul Nicholls)
Admirable grey making his sixth Festival appearance this year. Heads into the race as the reigning champion after jumping a Altior and Chacun Pour-Soi-less field into submission last season. Gained a career-high rating in victory on that occasion and that matched level when beating Greaneteen and Rouge Vif in the Tingle Creek, though was arguably slightly below peak form when runner-up to First Flow in the Clarence House last time out.
Nevertheless, he’s a superbly consistent horse with a good record in this event- he was also second in 2019- and is hard to knock out of the first five.
8. Rouge Vif (Gavin Sheehan/Harry Whittington)
Beat Nube Negra in the Kingmaker last season and was a fine third in the Arkle last season. Earned his place at the top table by winning a handicap over course and distance but hasn’t cut it in better company on the last two occasions, and looks up against it at this level.
9. Sceau Royal (Daryl Jacob/Alan King)
Making his fifth Festival appearance, with his third in the 2019 Champion Chase his best performance at the meeting.
Was probably Britain’s second-best two-mile chaser at his peak and has had a good spell mixing hurdling with chasing this season, winning the Welsh Champion Hurdle, Elite Hurdle and the Game Spirit.
Likeable and clearly retains all of his ability, but already exposed as being inferior to a few of his rivals here and needs several to underperform if he’s to improve his record of 0-8 in open Grade 1s.
10. Put The Kettle On (Aidan Coleman/Henry De Bromhead)
Hugely admirable little mare who went from being beaten off a mark of 111 in a Punchestown handicap hurdle to winning a Cheltenham Festival Grade 1 in the space of a year.
Her route to Arkle victory last season, via provincial Irish tracks such as Wexford and Downpatrick, was one of the feelgood stories of the year, and she returned to Cheltenham in November when a gutsy victory in an admittedly weak renewal of the Shloer Chase. No match for Chacun Pour Soi at Leopardstown last time, though, and she may prove to be better over more of a trip in time.
Jumps well, and may hit the placings.
CHAMPION CHASE VERDICT
– The last minute withdrawal of two-time former champion Altior is disappointing, but he wouldn’t have to come close to beating the exceptional Chacun Pour Soi.
Willie Mullins’ gelding is a Festival virgin, but he saw the finish out well enough at Leopardstown last time to provide confidence that he’ll get up the famous hill.