2007 Winner: Voy Por Ustedes; Trainer: Alan King; Age: 6; SP: 5/1
The omens are not good for last year’s winner, Voy Por Usetedes, as the reigning title holder is on a losing run stretching back to Viking Flagship in 1995. However, there have been plenty of dual winners further back in the race’s history, and he does have valuable course experience, which can't be said of Master Minded. That’s a worry for his backers, as 18 the last 23 Champion chasers had been placed at the Festival before. Twist Magic has at least run here, but he is yet to win or even finish a race at Cheltenham - something nearly all Champion Chase winners have done - while the case for opposing him gets stronger when you consider that five-year-olds just don’t win Champion Chases. Overall, this has been a good race for punters as only Newmill (16/1) has scored at above 5/1 in the last nine renewals.
The contenders (best current prices):
Master Minded (11/4 Boylesports) has appeared from nowhere to head the betting, winning a handicap chase at Sandown on only his second start in Britain, before taking the scalp of Voy Por Ustedes (3/1 Skybet) in the Game Spirit Chase last time out. Potential backers of the reigning champ will point to the fact that he is two from three on this course, while his overall record in chases stands at eight wins, five seconds, and one unseated rider from 14 starts. Former ante post favourite Twist Magic (3/1 general) was outstayed by Tamarinbleu (6/1 Paddy Power) in a strongly run Victor Chandler Chase on soft ground at Ascot last time. He can conceivably do better on better ground at Cheltenham, but the winner should not be underestimated if running here instead of the Ryanair Chase. Next in the betting comes Fair Along (10/1 Ladbrokes), and he could easily make the frame if one or more the main contenders flops.
Quite why Tamarinbleu is available at 6/1 for this race is a mystery to me. The race is about speed (the clock tells us that he has plenty of that), but the climb to the line brings stamina into play and he has that in spades. While he is proven over further, his defeat of Twist Magic at Ascot is arguably the best piece of 2m form this season. If Twist Magic had won as emphatically as Tamarinbleu did he would be odds-on for this race. Of course, Twist Magic was unsuited by the soft ground there but it’s no gimme that he will get the good ground he needs to be at his best on Wednesday, and remember he is yet to finish a race at the track. His stablemate, Master Minded has no experience of Cheltenham whatsoever and fell twice in five starts in France - he’s a lay at his current price of 11/4. I’m less keen to oppose Voy Por Ustedes as he annually comes alive at the Festival, but he is half the odds of Tamarinbleu, so I don’t need to tell you where the value is.
BACK - Tamarinbleu 2pt @ 6/1 Paddy Power
LAY (Betfair) - Master Minded - for the reasons given above.