Cheltenham tips: Queen Mother Champion Chase antepost picks from Ruby Walsh and Frank Hickey

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is the big race on Wednesday March 17.

Ruby Walsh & Frank Hickey

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Ruby Walsh and Frank Hickey have cast their eyes over the Queen Mother Champion Chase ahead of this year’s Cheltenham Festival – where Paddy Power is non-runner money back (NRMB) on all races.

Speaking on the third episode of the special Countdown To Cheltenham podcast, our main men discussed the runners who are expected to be in contention for the two mile chasing crown.

You can listen to the full show BELOW.

RUBY WALSH

You won’t be looking for as much room or as good a sight at the fences in the Champion Chase – unlike the Arkle – because you have a more experienced horse. You will find in the Champion Chase that they ride closer together and it’s slightly more competitive.

It has been a stop-start career for the supremely talented CHACUN POUR SOI. He’s a very, very good horse but he just has to go and deliver on the biggest stage at Cheltenham to be considered a great horse. I hope he gets the chance to do it. Chacun Pour Soi’s in great form and he looks the best in the field. He’ll reoppose Min at the Dublin Racing Festival, this weekend, which will be really informative.

I’ll be amazed if last year’s Arkle winner PUT THE KETTLE ON was good enough to win the Champion Chase. If she was mine she’d be running in the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Novice Chase. NOTEBOOK is banging on the door but hasn’t made the progression.

We’re all waiting to see what happens with ALTIOR in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury in a fortnight. Has he improved from his Kempton reappearance defeat?

Chacun Pour Soi

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FRANK HICKEY

There’s not really that much opposition and Chacun Pour Soi has such a decent record. You’re just hoping he gets there in one piece and gets to run on the day. If he does he’s probably going to be an odds-on favourite.

It’s difficult not to be impressed with the manner of NUBE NEGRA‘s win in the Desert Orchid Chase where he slammed Altior and also had Duc Des Genievres and Rouge Vif well beaten. His jumping was electric and bar a mistake at the last, he travelled like a dream. He might just be improving as he’s only a seven-year-old. He has run well at Cheltenham before finishing third in the 2018 Fred Winter where he hit the front turning into the straight, but was outstayed up the hill. If the ground comes up good-to-soft or bordering on good, I think he’ll have a right chance of definitely hitting the frame. Maybe he’s the one to put it up to Chacun Pour Soi?

POLITOLOGUE is consistent but I don’t think he’s an exceptional two-mile chaser. He was fourth in 2018, second in 2019 and won the Champion Chase last year beating Dynamite Dollars by nine lengths. The race fell apart when DEFI DU SEUIL didn’t run his race at all and was unplaced. Politologue obviously won the Tingle Creek this year but that wasn’t a strong renewal and he was put in his place by First Flow fair and square at Ascot last time. He’ll run his usual game race, but it would be disappointing if he retained his crown.

A concern over FIRST FLOW would be that he ran at Cheltenham in the Supreme Novices’ that Summerville Boy won. He got his heavy ground that day but was pulled up. You’re kind of wondering if a left-handed turning track like Cheltenham would suit him as most of his best form is on right-handed tracks.

If I knew TORNADO FLYER was going for the Champion Chase over the 2m 5f Ryanair Chase I’d be interested. If you look at his handicap run at Punchestown on seasonal reappearance, it was massive to finish second off a mark of 150. He was also only beaten by a length by Min in the John Durkan. I think he’d have a right each-way chance in the Champion Chase, but potentially he’s not good enough to beat Chacun Pour Soi.

People are saying that Altior’s defeat to Cyrname at Ascot in 2019 left its mark and that he is not the same horse since. I don’t think he was at his best previous to that. He was workmanlike when winning the 2019 Champion Chase, only getting up late to collar Politologue and he wasn’t at his best when beating Sceau Royal in the Celebration Chase on his next start.· He is 11 now and might just be regressing and while he still has ability, I’d be quite surprised if he wins the Champion Chase.

QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE BET SUMMARY – WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17

Ruby Walsh – Chacun Pour Soi

Frank Hickey – Nube Negra (EW)

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What do you think?