Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
|Grade 1, Cheltenham 15:30
1m 7f 199y, Class 1
|Wednesday 15th March 2017
1 Special Tiara 11/1
2 Fox Norton 7/1
3 Sir Valentino 33/1
10 ran Distances: hd, 6l, hd
TIME 3m 55.40s (slow by 3.40s)
Special Tiara wins the Queen Mother Champion Chase!
Special Tiara delivered the finest performance of his career to win with a superb front-running performance in the two-mile chasing championship.
Ridden by Noel Fehily, the 10-year-old son of Kayf Tara led throughout and jumped superbly. Still clear after jumping the last, Henry de Bromhead's charge responded well to Fehily's urgings up the punishing Cheltenham hill and fend off the late challenge of Colin Tizzard's Fox Norton, who stayed on stoutly to finish just a head behind the winner, in a thrilling finish.
Tom George's Sir Valentino was six lengths back in third.
Special Tiara is a regular at the Festival and has finished sixth, third and third again in the 2014-2016 renewals of the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. However, today was the gelding's crowning glory as he caused a seismic shock in a race many believed would be a mere procession for 2/9 favourite Douvan.
De Bromhead, gaining his fourth Cheltenham Festival winner, said: "It's a horse race and anything can happen but this is very hard to believe at the moment. No horse deserves it any more than this lad and Sally [Rowley-Williams, owner] loves her horses and no-one deserves this more than her.
"Noel gave Special Tiara a super ride. The horse is just a legend and I just thought he jumped really quick today over his fences. Noel is an amazing rider and I am absolutely delighted for him.
"I am so pleased for everyone involved. He seemed in great form coming into this - I nearly said to our head lad Davy Roche at home that this fellow seems better than ever and I said: 'No, no, I will stop'.
"Special Tiara seemed in great form but it is hard to believe with Douvan and everything else. For our lad, it's amazing. He just tries his heart out and no horse deserves it more.
"I thought that he jumped the slickest that he has ever jumped. Often, he jumps a bit high but he was so slick today, it's incredible.
"Any day that you win a Grade One at Cheltenham is an amazing day and one of the feature races. My uncle and aunt bred this horse and for Sally, it's just brilliant."
"Douvan is a super horse. I don't know what happened today but our horse has benefitted from it. I was surprised we had such a nice lead at the top of the hill and the finish was very nerve-wracking.
"He loves that better ground and he gives his all every time. He is a great horse."
BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase
£365,760 added, 5yo plus, 1m 7f 199y, Class 1
Going: Good to Soft, Good in places
|Special Tiara 11/1
|N D Fehily
|H de Bromhead
|Fox Norton (FR) 7/1
|C L Tizzard
|Sir Valentino (FR) 33/1
|P J Brennan
|T R George
|Top Gamble (IRE) 20/1
|D N Russell
|God's Own (IRE) 6/1
|A P Heskin
|T R George
|Traffic Fluide (FR) 50/1
|G L Moore
|Douvan (FR) 2/9f
|W P Mullins
|Garde La Victoire (FR) 14/1
|P J Hobbs
|Simply Ned (IRE) 33/1
|B P Harding
|N G Richards
|Sizing Granite (IRE) 50/1
|T J O'Brien
|C L Tizzard
FEHILY REALLY SPECIAL ON RESURGENT TIARA
Noel Fehily won another championship race at The Festival 2017 when riding Special Tiara to victory in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.
The win topped up his success yesterday in the Stan James Champion Hurdle on Buveur D'Air, and tomorrow he could make it a hat-trick of wins in the meeting's top races when riding hot favourite Unowhatimeanharry in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle. At present he has no ride in Friday's Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Special Tiara (11/1) scored by a head from Fox Norton (7/1) with Sir Valentino (33/1) six lengths back in third. The shock in that list is the absence of 2/9 favourite Douvan, who lost his unbeaten record when finishing seventh.
Fehily, who made all on the winner, said: "I've just won the race I always wanted to win - the Champion Chase is the best speed race over fences and it's a great one to have on the CV.
"I was wondering where Ruby was and thought he would be stalking me, but I got into a great rhythm down the back straight and my horse jumped better than he has ever done. He's a wonderful horse and deserved that, because he's been knocking on the door a few times [third in this twice].
"It's difficult to make all in the Champion Chase, especially going at that speed, and you're worried you're a sitting target for something else. When I jumped the ditch at the top of the hill I thought Douvan might come past me, but I didn't think anything else would.
"Henry [De Bromhead, trainer] does a great job, and the better ground helped. He won at Kempton and showed he was in good form this season, but he's been bogged down in other races. If you said to me at the start of the week 'you can win the Champion Hurdle and Chase' I'd have taken that."
Sally Rowley-Williams owns the 11/1 winner of the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, Special Tiara, trained by Henry de Bromhead in Ireland.
The American former banker, who lived for much of her life in England, said: "He really totally deserves this race.
"It is the first time since he won his G1 at Aintree as a novice that he has had his ground. He has just shown us what he can do on the ground.
"Noel Fehily is a beautiful horseman and there is no one like him in terms of sensitivity - he calmed down Special Tara going to the start - and gave the horse such a lovely ride. I could not be more thankful to him.
"My only fear was coming up the hill, but Special Tiara kept on and it was great. I was shouting hang on, hang on and lots of four-letter words! There we are - I am a very enthusiastic owner.
"I have never lost faith in Special Tiara because I know exactly what he can do and all he needed was this sort of ground. I had complete faith in the jockey, the trainer and the stable staff and where he goes on holiday. The person who looks after him does an amazing job.
"This is an incredible feeling to be in the winner's enclosure - this was my sixth attempt at winning the Champion Chase.
"Two miles is about all my nerves can take and even that is stretching it!"
FOX JUST FAILS IN QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE
The Colin Tizzard-trained Fox Norton (7/1) finished an agonising head second, after just failing to reel in Henry De Bromhead's winner Special Tiara.
Always travelling well, Fox Norton stayed on stoutly up the Cheltenham hill under Aidan Coleman but was unable to quite get to the leader who led throughout.
Dorset handler Tizzard said: "It was a fantastic run. Halfway up the run, we thought we were going to get there but to be fair to the winner he stayed on didn't he and kept going. It was a lovely run and we couldn't wish for anything else."
Fox Norton's rider, Aidan Coleman, said: "I could not be happier with him. He jumped brilliantly and, from the back of the last, I thought we might get there, but fair play to Special Tiara for keeping going. He is a very brave horse and there was nothing else I could do.
"I haven't a negative word to say against my horse or my passage through the race. It would have been nice to win, but I'm happy."
Paddy Brennan was delighted with the run of eight-year-old Sir Valentino (33/1), who was as further six lengths behind Fox Norton in third.
Brennan said: "Unbelievable run and it was a great training performance and I was just thrilled to be a part of it.
"There is no reason to say he cannot improve again after running in this race. It was his first proper run in Grade One company where he looked good, unlike in the Tingle Creek, and wherever he goes next, he'll be interesting."
MULLINS MULLS ON DOUVAN
Willie Mullins, trainer of the previously unbeaten superstar Douvan, felt there must be a physical problem after his charge's out of sorts seventh.
Mullins said: "He never did that before, I imagine we will find something physical wrong with him. Ruby was gobsmacked by that. Douvan didn't jump as well as he expected. Usually we would find something wrong when something like this happens.
"When they jump like that they can injure themselves, it is a huge strain they exert upon themselves and he is a big horse. He put in two or three odd jumps and I would say he must have done something. It takes a lot out of a horse to make a mistake like that in a championship race.
"I think he probably pulled something, maybe a muscle or a ligament. Hopefully, it is only something that will come right straight away. When I saw him jump the first couple of fences, I thought he would have to be a superhorse to win this. You don't get away with that sort of jumping and win a (Betway Queen Mother) Champion Chase, you might win a beginners' chase but not a champion class of race.
"I am hoping that he could be one of the best horses I have ever trained, but today was clearly not his run. We will have to get him back on track, if we can, but that is the way it is. We are all disappointed that this has happened. Now my main job is to find out what is wrong and how long it will take to fix.
"Ruby didn't say Douvan had come back lame, all he said was that the horse wasn't moving well behind. I don't know whether that was after he jumped during the race or as he was pulling up. He didn't say there was something wrong behind but that he felt that he wasn't moving well behind.
"I am well used to dealing with the frustration of racing, if not quite at this level with this type of hore, but that is the way it is.
Ruby Walsh, rider of Douvan, added: "We were beaten a long way out, he didn't jump well. He didn't feel right and he never got going."
QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE ROLL OF HONOUR
(Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase since 2007, Queen Mother Champion Chase 1980-2006, previously National Hunt Two Mile Champion Chase from when first run in 1959)
Year Winner Age/Wt Jockey Trainer Owner SP Ran
2016 Sprinter Sacre 10-11-10 Nico de Boinville Nicky Henderson Caroline Mould 5/1 10
2015 Dodging Bullets 7-11-10 Sam Twiston-Davies Paul Nicholls Martin Broughton & Friends 9/2 9
2014 Sire De Grugy 8-11-10 Jamie Moore Gary Moore The Preston Family & Friends Ltd 11/4F 11
2013 Sprinter Sacre 7-11-10 Barry Geraghty N J Henderson 1/4 7
2012 Finian's Rainbow 9-11-10 Barry Geraghty N J Henderson 4/1 6
2011 Sizing Europe 9-11-10 Andrew Lynch Henry de Bromhead IRE Ann & Alan Potts 10/1 11
2010 Big Zeb 9-11-10 Barry Geraghty Colm Murphy IRE Pat Redmond 10/1 9
2009 Master Minded 6-11-10 Ruby Walsh Paul Nicholls Clive Smith 4/11F 12
2008 Master Minded 5-11-10 Ruby Walsh Paul Nicholls Clive Smith 3/1 8
2007 Voy Por Ustedes 6-11-10 Robert Thornton Alan King Sir Robert Ogden 5/1 10
2006 Newmill 8-11-10 Andrew McNamara John Murphy IRE Mary Hayes 16/1 12
2005 Moscow Flyer 11-11-10 Barry Geraghty Jessica Harrington IRE Brian Kearney 6/4F 8
2004 Azertyuiop 7-11-10 Ruby Walsh Paul Nicholls John Hales 15/8 8
2003 Moscow Flyer 9-12-00 Barry Geraghty Jessica Harrington IRE Brian Kearney 7/4F 11
2002 Flagship Uberalles 8-12-00 Richard Johnson Philip Hobbs Elizabeth Gutner/Michael Krysztofiak 7/4F 12
2001 No Race (Foot and Mouth)
2000 Edredon Bleu 8-12-00 Tony McCoy Henrietta Knight Jim Lewis 7/2 9
1999 Call Equiname 9-12-00 Mick Fitzgerald Paul Nicholls Mick Coburn,Paul Barber,Colin Lewis 7/2 13
1998 One Man 10-12-00 Brian Harding Gordon Richards John Hales 7/2 8
1997 Martha’s Son 10-12-00 Rodney Farrant Tim Forster Paddy Hartigan/Michael Ward-Thomas 9/1 6
1996 Klairon Davis 7-12-00 Francis Woods Arthur Moore IRE Chris Jones 9/1 7
1995 Viking Flagship 8-12-00 Charlie Swan David Nicholson Roach Foods Ltd 5/2F 10
1994 Viking Flagship 7-12-00 Adrian Maguire David Nicholson Roach Foods Ltd 4/1 8
1993 Deep Sensation 8-12-00 Declan Murphy Josh Gifford Robin Eliot 11/1 9
1992 Remittance Man 8-12-00 Jamie Osborne Nicky Henderson Jim Collins Evs F 6
1991 Katabatic 8-12-00 Simon McNeill Andrew Turnell Pell-Mell Partners 9/1 7
1990 Barnbrook Again 9-12-00 Hywel Davies David Elsworth Mel Davies 11/10F 9
1989 Barnbrook Again 8-12-00 Simon Sherwood David Elsworth Mel Davies 7/4F 8
1988 Pearlyman 9-12-00 Tom Morgan John Edwards Valerie Shaw 15/8F 8
1987 Pearlyman 8-12-00 Peter Scudamore John Edwards Valerie Shaw 13/8F 8
1986 Buck House 8-12-00 Tommy Carmody Mouse Morris IRE Mrs Phil Purcell 5/2 11
1985 Badsworth Boy 10-12-00 Robert Earnshaw Monica Dickinson Doug Armitage 11/8 5
1984 Badsworth Boy 9-12-00 Robert Earnshaw Michael Dickinson Doug Armitage 8/13F 10
1983 Badsworth Boy 8-12-00 Robert Earnshaw Michael Dickinson Doug Armitage 2/1 6
1982 Rathgorman 10-12-00 Kevin Whyte Michael Dickinson J Lilley 100/30 9
1981 Drumgora 9-12-00 Frank Berry Arthur Moore IRE D Monahan 25/1 9
1980 *Another Dolly 10-12-00 Sam Morshead Fred Rimell Ian Urquhart 33/1 7
1979 Hilly Way 9-12-00 Mr Ted Walsh Peter McCreery IRE J W Sweeney 7/1 9
1978 Hilly Way 8-12-00 Tommy Carmody Peter McCreery IRE J W Sweeney 7/1 10
1977 Skymas 12-12-00 Mouse Morris Brian Lusk IRE Mathew Magee 7/2 8
1976 Skymas 11-12-00 Mouse Morris Brian Lusk IRE Mathew Magee 8/1 7
1975 Lough Inagh 8-12-00 Sean Barker Jim Dreaper IRE A Martin 100/30 8
1974 Royal Relief 10-12-00 Bill Smith Edward Courage Edward Courage 6/1 6
1973 Inkslinger 6-12-00 Tommy Carberry Dan Moore IRE Mrs M Jenney 6/1 6
1972 Royal Relief 8-12-00 Bill Smith Edward Courage Edward Courage 15/8 5
1971 Crisp 8-12-00 Paul Kelleway Fred Winter Sir Chester Manifold 3/1 8
1970 Straight Fort 7-12-00 Pat Taaffe Tom Dreaper IRE George Ansley 7/4F 6
1969 Muir 10-12-00 Ben Hannon Tom Dreaper IRE Waring Willis 15/2 11
1968 Drinny’s Double 10-12-00 Frank Nash Bob Turnell Paul Mellon 6/1 5
1967 Drinny’s Double 9-12-00 Frank Nash Bob Turnell Paul Mellon 7/2 8
1966 Flyingbolt 7-12-00 Pat Taaffe Tom Dreaper IRE Mrs Jean Wilkinson 1/5F 6
1965 Dunkirk 8-12-00 Dave Dick Peter Cazalet Bill Whitbread 8/1 6
1964 Ben Stack 7-12-00 Pat Taaffe Tom Dreaper IRE Anne, Duchess of Westminster 2/1 5
1963 Sandy Abbot 8-12-00 Stan Mellor George Owen Mrs J D McKechnie 5/1 5
1962 Piperton 8-12-00 Dave Dick Archie Thomlinson Archie Thomlinson 100/6 7
1961 Fortria 9-12-00 Pat Taaffe Tom Dreaper IRE George Ansley 2/5F 5
1960 Fortria 8-12-00 Pat Taaffe Tom Dreaper IRE George Ansley 15/8F 7
1959 Quita Que 10-12-00 Bunny Cox Dan Moore IRE Mrs D R Brand 4/9F 9
*Another Dolly finished second to Chinrullah, who was subsequently disqualified after failing a post-race urine test