2016 Cheltenham Festival news: Un De Sceaux tops Champion Chase dozen


David Metcalf | March 10, 2016

Un De Sceaux and Vautour among Champion Chase dozen

Un De Sceaux will face a maximum of 11 rivals in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.

Last year’s Arkle Challenge Trophy winner is currently the red-hot favourite with Coral to provide Irish trainer Willie Mullins with his first victory in the feature 2m contest on Wednesday, March 16th.

Mullins also has Felix Yonger, Twinlight and Vautour left in the race following the latest declaration stage.

Vautour (9/4 NRMB) being left in comes as a surprise after owner Rich Ricci said last week that he was going for the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the final day of the meeting or “might as well stay at home”.

The last three winners of the Champion Chase are also in the field, with the Nicky Henderson trained 2013 scorer Sprinter Sacre (4/1) widely considered the biggest threat to the favourite.

Trainer Gary Moore has suggested he could reach for the blinkers for 2014 winner Sire De Grugy (12/1), while last year’s hero Dodging Bullets (10/1) is back to defend his crown for Ditcheat handler Paul Nicholls.

It’s 2015 Arkle Challenge Trophy winner Un De Sceaux that heads Cheltenham betting for this year’s Champion Chase, however, at 4/6.

God’s Own, Just Cameron, Sizing Granite, Somersby and Special Tiara complete the confirmations.

Our Father out of Kim Muir

Irish trainer Gordon Elliott has confirmed that ante-post favourite Our Father will miss the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday, March 17th, after picking up an injury which has ruled him out for the rest of the season.

The 10-year-old grey, who was due to be ridden by Nina Carberry, had been heavily punted into 6/1 and finished ninth in the 2014 running of the contest.

His absence has seen stablemate Cause Of Causes take over at the head of the market. The JP McManus owned eight-year-old, who won the 4m National Hunt Chase at last year’s Festival, is 11/2 (from 8s) with Coral for the amateur riders contest.

McManus also has two others towards the head of the market in Free Expression (12/1) and Upswing (10/1).

Champion the plan for Camping Ground

Trainer Robert Walford reports Camping Ground to be in “good order” and on course to run in the Champion Hurdle on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, for which he is currently 20/1 with Coral.

The six-year-old looked a very smart prospect when beating Lil Rockerfeller by 11 lengths in the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle over 2m 4f at the track on January 1st, and appeared to get home over 3m in Cleeve Hurdle on Festival Trials Day when last seen in action and finishing fifth.

Walford said: “Camping Ground is in good order and the plan is to run in the Champion Hurdle.

“It was a tough call between the two races but you would probably be playing for second in the World Hurdle, whereas the Champion looks more open than in previous years.

“Faugheen and Arctic Fire were the top two horses in the race and, without them, it is definitely more winnable.

“On ratings, Camping Ground has only got six or seven pounds to find. We are hoping he can find it, but are not going there expecting.”

Min spearheads Mullins mob left in Supreme, Douvan tops 14 in Arkle

Champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins is responsible for nine of the 25 confirmations folowing the latest declaration stage for Cheltenham Festival’s curtain raiser, the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, including Min who is currently 7/4 favourite with Coral.

The five-year-old, unbeaten in two appearances at Punchestown this season, is out to provide Mullins and owner Rich Ricci with a fourth straight win in the race following Champagne Fever (2013), Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015).

Mullins has also left in Grade 1 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle scorer Yorkhill (9/2), whilst Lambourn handler Nicky Henderson would appear to have the best chance of ending his domination in the race with his pair of Altior (4/1) and Buveur D’Air (6/1).

Last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle victor Douvan (4/11 with Coral), who is also trained by Mullins, looks set to be one of the bankers of the Festival in the Racing Post Arkle Chase which has 14 confirmations.

The Willie Mullins trained six-year-old has made a faultless start to his chasing career this season, headed by a pair of effortless Grade 1 wins at Leopardstown in the Racing Post Novice Chase and the Arkle Novice Chase.

Douvan’s main dangers could be Doncaster Grade 2 winner Vaniteux (5/1), Garde La Victoire (14/1), who is also unbeaten in three chase starts, and Racing Post Novice Chase runner-up Sizing John (8/1).


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