The Queen Mother Champion Chase (15.30) has been a ‘hold your breath’ sort of contest all season long but it appears, fingers crossed, the stars we wanted have all got here in one piece.
With that being the case, perhaps the race of the entire week could unfold on Wednesday afternoon in what is always the most nerve-shredding test of fencing. Two-miles at breakneck speed, knowing one wrong move can end the dream, this is high-class chasing at its best.
Altior, now 11/10, has been odds-on favourite to win this race for most of the season. He’s unbeaten over jumps and has twice won already at the Cheltenham Festival. A wind operation late last year delayed his return but he looked stunning at Newbury last month when he did reappear.
Then on Monday trainer Nicky Henderson revealed he was lame and needed to have an infection drawn out overnight. Come Tuesday, he was declared raring to go.
A year ago Douvan came into this very race unbeaten and with the world at his feet. He picked up an injury in finishing down the field and has not run since. Trainer Willie Mullins ruled him out for the season at one point before reconsidering.
On Sunday, connections signalled they were thinking of holding back for the Ryanair Chase instead of this, but he comes here.
Moreover, despite stablemate Min being in the line-up – a Grade 1 winning two-mile chase this season – Ruby Walsh has committed to Douvan. Douvan is into 11/4 to make amends for last year’s flop in this race.
Despite so much uncertainty all season long, the Queen Mother Champion Chase now has the blockbuster appeal it deserves!
The opening act on Wednesday isn’t short on star appeal either. The much-heralded Samcro must bid to match the hype that surrounds his bid for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (13.30).
Gordon Elliott’s charge is the 50/69 favourite to maintain his unbeaten record and will be viewed by many punters as the ‘Festival Banker’ this year. He has looked majestic in his three starts over hurdles but is now entering the big league.
The RSA Chase (14.10) also shapes up as a cracking race. Presenting Percy, winner over hurdles at this meeting last year, is the 9/4 favourite for trainer Pat Kelly and perennial festival-winning jockey Davy Russell.
He has a touch of class about him and should be hard to beat, though Monalee has the potential to be a gritty and dour opponent for trainer Henry De Bromhead.
Bryony Frost has teamed up with Black Corton to be one of the success stories of this jumps season in Britain. They’ve already pocketed a Grade One prize and are 6/1 for the RSA Chase, the Paul Nicholls-trained runner should not be underestimated behind the leading Irish pair in the market.
The Cross Country (16.10) race is a brilliant occasion and one punters should be sure to take in. A daring and varied set of obstacles dotted all around Prestbury Park are sure to offer a unique challenge and it is one that Cause Of Causes relishes.
He won this race last year by nine-lengths before finishing second in the Grand National at Aintree. His trainer also saddles the much-vaunted two-time Festival winner Tiger Roll in the race but getting the measure of 11/4 chance Cause Of Causes will prove tough.
The finale on Wednesday is the Champion Bumper (15.30), where Anthony Honeyball’s Acey Milan is fancied to get the job done at 8/1.
He is already a dual Listed winner, including here on New Year’s Day in testing ground and having won a very strong Newbury race since, he’ll take some stopping if getting to the front again.
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