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Having managed a remarkable 72 Cheltenham Festival winners since 1995, Willie Mullins has strangely never claimed victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The feature race on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival is the only championship race that has eluded the powerful Closutton handler so far since his first attempt with Florida Pearl in 2003.
The crossbar has been hit previously with Un De Sceaux and Min, with hopes now relying on CHACUN POUR SOI to score next month. This horse quickly powered onto the chasing scene in 2019 when landing the Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown on his second Irish start over fences. Having beaten Defi Du Seuil on that occasion, he returned from his summer break to finish second behind A Plus Tard over Christmas at Leopardstown.
He bounced back from that defeat to win at the Dublin Racing Festival last February, before unfortunately being withdrawn on the morning of the 2020 Queen Mother with a stone-bruise. It was extremely disappointing for all concerned just before a Grade 1 which also saw dual champion Altior missing for Nicky Henderson. There’s no doubt the Mullins team deserve better luck this St Patrick’s Day and Chacun Pour Soi couldn’t be heading towards Cheltenham in much better form.
The Hilly Way Chase at Cork in early December against lesser opposition was an excellent starting point, before a much slicker performance when beaten NOTEBOOK and PUT THE KETTLE ON at Christmas. A second success in the Dublin Chase was his best performance this season under a smooth, confident and ultracool ride by Paul Townend. He outpowered his rivals with authority in a race which saw FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES performing well for second-place and stable-mate TORNADO FLYER back in fourth having dropped in trip.
Nicky Henderson is now inclined at heading straight to Cheltenham with the ageing Altior, who was last seen finishing second to Nube Negra in the Desert Orchid Chase at Christmas. First Flow is another leading contender for the home challenge having seen off defending champion Politologue in the Clarence House at Ascot. Greaneteen needs to reverse the form with his stable-mate on the Tringle Creek, which ultimately suggests that both Dan Skelton and Kim Bailey have the best chances of troubling the favourite in my opinion.
MIN doesn’t have the gears at his age for this distance and will hopefully bounce back from been pulled-up at Leopardstown to defend the Ryanair Chase. The same can be said for SAMCRO, with last year’s Marsh Novices’ Chase winner clearly better suited by the Ryanair trip for the Gordon Elliott team. BATTLEOVERDOYEN looks a more interesting longer-term hope for Aintree in April and surely won’t race here for the Gigginstown team.
Having finished fourth in the Champion Hurdle last year, CILAOS EMERY may deserve a spin with excellent prize-money going right down to the eighth-place finisher. Caspian Caviar Gold Cup hero CHATHAM STREET LAD looks more likely to contest one of the novice races over the week for Mick Winters. He was very impressive when winning in December, but disappointed when dropping down to the extended two-mile trip at Fairyhouse in January.
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In summary, it’s been a perfect campaign so far for CHACUN POUR SOI and connections genuinely deserve much better fortune at the Festival after events of 12 months ago. The son of Policy Maker is now the complete racehorse, who travels, jumps and has the speed and overall class to score having dominated the two-mile chasing division in Ireland. It’s now time for this Willie Mullins superstar to beat the best from the UK and finally provide the Closutton team with the Queen Mother trophy.
*Paddy will be all over your telly box throughout the Cheltenham Festival sponsoring ITV’s live coverage from Prestbury Park – and you can get free and exclusive tipping columns EVERY DAY from Ruby Walsh, Matt Chapman and Mick Fitzgerald here on PP News.
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