Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase - Analysis
Following his devastating victory in last year’s race, Master Minded heads a top quality entry of 29 for the £320,000 Grade One Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase, highlight of day two of The Festival, Wednesday, March 11.
Clive Smith’s outstanding chaser rewrote the record books last season by becoming the first five-year-old to triumph in the two-mile contest, beating the 2007 winner Voy Por Ustedes by 19 lengths and becoming the highest-rated jump horse in training in the process.
After finishing last season with a reversal to Voy Por Ustedes in the Grade One Melling Chase over two and a half miles at Aintree, Master Minded began this season with another imperious display over two miles when taking the Grade One Seasons Holidays Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park in December.
Trainer Paul Nicholls has entered seven horses in total, more than any other trainer, including Twist Magic, who could only finish sixth to his stablemate in this race last season before going on to Grade One success in the Kerrygold Champion Chase at Punchestown, and Noland, who also scored the biggest success of his career in Ireland when taking the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase at the same course in December.
The 2007 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup winner Andreas, Medicinal, Natal and Takeroc complete the potential challenge from the all-conquering Ditcheat stable.
The talented but fragile Well Chief may aim finally to secure victory in the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase, having finished second to the mighty Moscow Flyer in 2005 and having fallen early in the race when sent off favourite two years later.
The 10-year-old, successful in the 2004 The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase, is one of five entries from the stable of David Pipe, which could also be represented by Tamarinbleu, Pablo Du Charmil, I’m So Lucky, and exciting French import Or Noir De Somoza, a Grade One winner over both fences and hurdles at Auteuil for his previous handler Arnaud Chaille-Chaille.
Nicky Henderson, who saddled Remittance Man to glory in this race in 1998, could bid for a second victory with the progressive Petit Robin, a winner of four of his six starts, while Philip Hobbs could also bid for a second success in the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase with Lord Henry, who was second to Andreas in the Grade Two Celebration Chase at Sandown Park at the end of last season.
The Howard Johnson-trained Tidal Bay, impressive winner of The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase at last year’s Festival, could return to two miles following a good second under top-weight in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day, while the lightly-raced Briareus could also drop back in trip after an encouraging fourth in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on the same day.
Course winners Ashley Brook and Mahogany Blaze, first and second in the Grade Two William Hill Gold Cup at Exeter in November, have also been entered along with Santa’s Son and Moon Over Miami, who filled the first two places in the Castlefors Handicap Chase at Wetherby on December 27.
Nick Gifford, whose father Josh won this race with Deep Sensation in 1993, may bid to emulate his father with the lightly-raced Killaghy Castle, while up and coming trainer Rebecca Curtis has entered Marodima, who won a Grade Two novices’ chase at Sandown Park for Paul Nicholls in December, 2007.
An Irish challenge of five includes the 2006 Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Newmill and the progressive Big Zeb, who took a Grade One chase at Leopardstown in December on his first appearance of the season.
The Colm Murphy-trained eight-year-old had previously taken the Grade One Swordlestown Cup Novice Chase at Punchestown in April, beating Thyne Again, fourth in last year’s The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase, and Grade One Dr P J Moriaty Chase victor J’Y Vole. Grade Two Hilly Way Chase scorer Scotsirish is the other potential runner from across the Irish Sea.
The one German possible is the Christian von der Recke-trained Fiepes Shuffle, who had six other Queen Mother Champion Chase hopefuls behind him when taking the Grade Two Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park on December 27.
SEASONS HOLIDAYS QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE FACTS
1. The National Hunt Two-Mile Champion Chase was first run in 1959 and the Queen Mother’s name was added to the race title in 1980, the year of her 80th birthday.
2. The race’s roll of honour includes plenty of multiple winners. Badsworth Boy (1983-85) is the only three-time winner. The double winners are Fortria (1960 and 1961), Drinny’s Double (1967 and 1968), Royal Relief (1972 and 1974), Skymas (1976 and 1977), Hilly Way (1978 and 1979), Pearlyman (1987 and 1988), Barnbrook Again (1989 and 1990), Viking Flagship (1994 and 1995) and Moscow Flyer (2003 and 2005).
3. Irish-trained runners have a good record in the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase, winning 19 of the 49 runnings. Newmill, trained by John Murphy and ridden by Andrew McNamara, was the most recent Irish-trained scorer in 2006.
4. Tom Dreaper has the best record of any trainer in the race, winning six runnings with Fortria (1960 and 1961), Ben Stack (1964), Flyingbolt (1966), Muir (1969), and Straight Fort (1970). Of current trainers, Paul Nicholls (1999 Call Equiname, 2004 Azertyuiop and 2008 Master Minded) has the best record.
5. Flyingbolt was the shortest-priced winner when succeeding at 1/5 in 1966, while Another Dolly, who was awarded the 1980 race at odds of 33/1, provided the biggest upset.
6. Pat Taaffe is the most successful rider with five wins, while Barry Geraghty (Moscow Flyer 2003 and 2005) and Ruby Walsh (Azertyuiop 2003 and Master Minded 2008) are the only current jockeys to have landed more than one Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase.
7. The oldest horse to have triumphed was the 12-year-old Skymas in 1977, while the youngest victor was Master Minded, who was just five when winning last year.
8. A small but select field usually lines up for the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase. The largest field was in 1999 when 13 runners went to post, one while only five runners lined up in 1985, 1972, 1968, 1964, 1963 and 1961.
9. The most successful owners are George Ansley, who enjoyed three wins with Fortria (1960 and 1961) and Straight Fort (1970), and Doug Armitage who had three victories with Badsworth Boy (1983, 1984 and 1985).
10. Michael Dickinson trained the winner for three consecutive years with Rathgorman (1982) and Badsworth Boy (1983 & 1984). His mother Monica had taken charge of the training operation for Badsworth Boy’s final success in 1985.
11. In 1986, the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Buck House subsequently met with that year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup heroine Dawn Run in a special match race at Punchestown in April, 1986. It was Dawn Run who prevailed by two and a half lengths.
12. The Irish Independent Arkle Chase is a good guide for future success in the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase. Voy Por Ustedes (2007), Azertyuiop (2004), Moscow Flyer (2003 and 2005), Flagship Uberalles (2002), Klairon Davis (1996) and Remittance Man (1992) all won the novices’ event before their Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase victory.
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