The race of the Cheltenham Festival
The Queen Mother Chase has to be the race of the Cheltenham Festival. Altior v Defi De Seuil v Chacun Pour Soi. What a line up and what a race this is going to be.
Altior is bidding to become the first horse to win the Queen Mother Chase since Badsworth Boy, who won it between 1982 – 1984. He is the only horse to win the race three times so Altior will only be the second horse ever.
Altior has won 19 of his last 20 starts and is unbeaten over 2 miles. He got be beat for the first time over hurdles or fences, to Cyrname at Ascot back in November, but over a trip of 2m 5f.
Ironically since he lost just ‘one race’, the talk has been he is finished, he is not the same horse, he is gone at the game. Total madness if I am being honest, how much a horse could get slated just because he lost one race, over a trip he was running over for the first time.
I can type this quite smug as I was one of the minorities who always thought that a step up to 3 miles (Plan for the King George) was not required and the horse was always a 2 miler. I wrote a blog about it back at the start of the season:
Here is a snippet when the early season plan was the King George Chase:
”Everyone is going to have their own opinion on this but I think he will could get caught out a 3 miles. Not only is he stepping up to 3 miles for the King George but he is going to have a big test on his hands with Cyrname likely to go out very fast. The other horses will also ensure the race is run at a fast pace and use every ammunition they have to try and get Altior beat. It is not going to be a King George where they will go an even gallop all the way around, you will have to stay 3 miles in this race and if you don’t you will be beat, as simple as that. I guess unless he puts in a mind-blowing performance in his prep race for the King George or the race don’t fall apart, I am going to be taking him at this early stage. I would much rather bet the horse to win the Queen Mother at 5/1 than the Gold Cup at 16/1 at this early stage.”
Altior never did make the King George
Following his loss at Ascot in November, which turned out to be a very hard race, it was decided he would not go to the King George. He then missed the Christmas period completely because of a Abscess and all we kept hearing from Nicky Henderson was, the race against Cyrname was a very hard race, and he was not over it.
He finally returned to the track at Newbury for the Grade 2 Betfair Exchange Chase. His jumping was a bit sticky which if I am being honest has always been the case. Although he stayed on at the end of his races, like he needed a step up in trip, for me the problem (if any problem) was he lost 1/2 length at fences from time to time.
At the end of his races he always had this turn of speed which his rivals could not compete with and even when he looked in trouble, he pulled it out of the bag. You only got to watch his 3 Cheltenham Festival wins and they show are prime example that no other horse has the turn of speed that he has.
Back to his win at Newbury and it is was a replica of what we have seen throughout his career, didn’t jump great, looked beat, powered past them after the last fence.
One thing I found out is Altior is exactly the same horse that we have seen throughout his career, when winning at odds of 1/6, 1/4, 1/3 yet this year he is still available for the Queen Mother Chase at 9/4.
This year does look the strongest Queen Mother Chase he has contested and in his way he has Defi De Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi who are going to give him the race of his life.
Defi De Seuil has been on an upward curve for nearly two years now and does not look like stopping.
He has won 6 of his last 8 starts over fences and remains unbeaten this season.
He was the winner of the JLT Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last season and has won the Tingle Creek, Sholer Chase and Clarence House Chase this season.
He looked better than ever when winning the Clarence House Chase last time out and his braveness and scope over the fences have been a serious weapon in his last two starts. He is really quick and economical from A to B and travels through his races like a superstar.
He also has a devastating turn of foot and can put a race to bed in a matter of strides.
His form at Cheltenham is also excellent and reads 11115211 which means he is 6 from 8 at the course.
He does look a horse who is better suited to softer ground but still has winning form on better ground.
He remains a big threat to Alitor, especially being only a 7 year old who you think still has lots of improvement to come.
His was beaten by Chacun Pour Soi last season at the Punchestown Festival but you could argue that defeat come on the back of a hard season.
Speaking of Chacun Pour Soi he has had four starts under Willie Mullins since joining from France, winning 3 of them and losing one, when 2nd to A Plus Tard over the Christmas period. He joined Willie Mullins in December 2016 but never made his debut for his new trainer until March 2019. 1089 days off the track but he returned in splendid fashion to win by 31 lengths.
He was then sent to the Punchestown Festival and again won impressively, this time beating Defi De Seuil who had previously won the JLT at the Cheltenham Festival.
He was beaten on his first start of the season to A Plus Tard who I think is better over further. It was his first start of the season so he was entitled to improve but for me showed vulnerability when he gets eye balled by another horse and it does make me question, how he would respond when Defi De Seuil and Altior come up side.
He then won the Champion Chase at Leopardstown beating a good horse in Min but again that is a horse who is better over further and Altior has brushed that horse aside quite easily, every time they have met.
Willie Mullins and Patrick Mullins rave about this horse and recently Patrick made a comment of how far he would win the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and not if he would win. I am not reading much into those comments as they have to back their own.
He is a very talented horse but does he have what it takes to beat the likes of Altior and Defi De Seuil who will both turn up in A1 Condition. Can he go through with his race when they eyeball him?
As you can tell from my comments I am happy to take on Chacun Pour Soi as he gives me the impression that he may not have the speed to go with Altior and Defi De Seuil. Having said that he is a very good jumper who could stretch the other two if they were to make mistakes, but I can’t see them both not jumping well and at least one will be their, to have their say.
I would love to see Altior win this race for a 3rd time as he is a people’s horse and a superstar for the sport.
At the same time I have long been a fan of Defi De Seuil since tipping him up Ante Post for the Triumph Hurdle at 25/1. Needless to say the rest is history that day so I do have a soft spot for him.
At this early stage it very much depends on the ground. If it was to come up good to soft then if the Altior we all know turns up, with his turn of speed and if he is within 1 length coming up the hill, he will be very hard to beat.
If it was to come up soft then I would very much be leaning towards Defi De Seuil who just loves the mud.
A mouthwatering clash and one I can’t wait to watch.
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