Queen mother chase preview 2021
QUEEN MOTHER CHASE
All races come with full reasoning behind each selection just as you are about to read. We literally leave no stone unturned and this year I want to beat my record set in 2016 of 54 points profit.
It is work of the highest quality and as professional as any you will find.
How do I see this race being run?
The ground is going to be fast, this race will take no prisoners and with front runners in the field such as First Flow, Politologue and Put The Kettle On, those who like to drop in behind, are going to get a lovely toe into the race.
One thing I would be mindful of for those jockeys in behind, is make sure they give those taking them along up front, plenty of respect. We saw it recently when Politologue and First Flow took each other on in the Clarence House Chase. They went a furious gallop and both still saw the race out well and it was even on soft ground. These horses stay further, along with Put The Kettle On, you cannot let them slip the field.
The jockeys will have to be on their A Game with the fractions and simply cannot avoid to think ‘they will come back to me’ because the likelihood is they won’t if respect is not given.
When all is said and done though having horses take them along as they will in this race, will play straight into the hands of a few of these, especially on good ground, which some of these horses have been waiting a lifetime for at proper Grade 1 Championship level.
The ground and course form
My first point of call and always has been in races like this, is who loves Cheltenham as they are the horses who keep coming back time and time again, year in year out. Sprinter Sacre is a perfect example, everyone had written the horse off (NOT ME) but send him back to Cheltenham and his ears just prick and he got the job done.
Cheltenham has a funny habit of pricking ears, the same thing happens to me everyday when I walk the dog around the outside of the course, it is a special place.
Jokes to one side it is a rule I will take with me through a lifetime, Cheltenham Festival Form is everything.
The other big factor in this race is the ground. I think it is going to be good ground for this race and if not good ground it is going to be good to soft, good in places, without a doubt.
It is a case of sorting out your good and soft ground horses, following the breeding lines, following the form and following the knee action.
You have to do your homework (in this case I will do it for you) around Cheltenham and find many many angles, angles I have been lining up for years.
There is not a lot that gets passed me, let’s put it that way and I can use angles from years ago which have been stored in my brain.
That is not to say I am going to get it right but I am ahead of the game when it comes to Cheltenham and National Hunt Racing and always will be.
Time to get through the field and as always start with the favourite and work our way down.
All prices are correct at the time of writing:
CHACUN POUR SOI – 10/11
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Form – 1253/1/121-111
There is not a lot of bad you can say about Chacun Pour Soi and I would be a fool to say he couldn’t win this race. He comes into the race unbeaten this season and has looked very good on all 3 starts. He very much has the superstar status in Ireland and has won 6 races from 7 starts under the care of Willie Mullins.
Although he is going to be tough to beat, I also think he has enough negatives against his name, that allows us to take him on.
For starters he has never been to Cheltenham before and although you wouldn’t expect the course to be a problem, you have to take the travelling factors into consideration. He has never been on a ferry, he has never been to Britain, he has never travelled much of a distance. In fact the furthest he has ever travelled in the care of Willie Mullins is down to Cork which is 2 hours away on one occasion, the rest of his runs were an hour or less away. As I will always keep saying ‘Cheltenham form is everything’.
Now this is not much of a factor to say he can’t win but now we have to throw in the good ground, something he has never raced on before. In 7 starts for Willie Mullins they have all been on soft ground. It may be a case that he will improve for better ground but his breeding side of things, particularly from his Dam, tell me soft ground would be preferred.
With the cases I have made regarding the course and ground, I think it is a good enough reason to take him on at very short odds, at Grade 1 proper Championship level.
As I say I am by no means saying he can’t win as he has looked like a superstar but this is betting and if I can find a good enough reason to take on a short priced favourite, I am all over it.
ALTIOR – 7/1 (NOW A NON RUNNER)
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Form – 13/611111/111111/11/11111/21-2
Altior, where to start with this superstar. A horse of a lifetime, a horse who has only been beaten twice in 22 starts over hurdles and fences. A horse who has won the Supreme, the Arkle Chase and won this race, The Queen Mother Chase, twice. Four Cheltenham Festivals and Four wins. This place brings out the best in him, that is for sure and as I said earlier in the post, this course has a habit of making horses happy and the love of the place often prevails. Cheltenham will prick those ears for any horse who falls in love with the place. It sounds strange but it is almost as if when horses like Sprinter Sacre and your Altior return to Cheltenham, they switch on and think, arghh we are back here the place where I made all those thousands of people so happy. Let’s face it, it is not called the home of jumps racing for no reason.
This race is starting to have a bit of a Sprinter Sacre feel to it. Everyone was saying he couldn’t possibly beat the 4/6 fav, Un Des Sceaux, trained by Willie Mullins, he was past it, he is not the same horse. Look what happened, when Un Des Sceaux starred Sprinter Sacre in the eye, he just couldn’t live with him.
I kind of get the feeling of Deja Vu, 5 years later……
Now let’s get to the nitty gritty of Altior who is now an 11 year old may I add. He couldn’t possibly at that age could he?
He is not coming into the race in good form and was beaten fair and square by Nube Negra. He was also beaten 3 starts ago by Cyrname in what was a gruelling race and some 18 months ago. In 18 months he has only run 3 times and two of those runs were on soft ground, the other was a win on good ground at Newbury.
We often hear Nicky Henderson state how much he hates soft ground. Just recently (this season) he was made a non runner because of the soft ground and all we hear from Henderson is ‘he hates soft ground’. This is not new information, he has been shouting it from the rooftops for years how he ‘hates soft ground’.
I am under no illusions, Altior is not the force he once was but I will always look at the reason why he was beaten and in these cases, you can say it was down to the ground. At the end of the day horses peak on optimum conditions and both his defeats were not with optimum conditions.
Now let’s flip the ground scenario around with Altior and look at what he does best.
To this day Altior remains unbeaten over hurdles and fences when the ground has been good or good to soft. They are his optimum conditions and those are the conditions he is going to get on the day. Now factor in his unbeaten record at the Cheltenham Festival and you have a horse going into the race, who will get everything foot perfect, unbeaten.
With the likely fast pace and the focus on stamina, this race could really be run to suit and I hear cheekpieces are going to be fitted which can only help him concentrate that bit better.
Nicky Henderson is a master at getting one right on the day and I would say those who write off Altior, write him off at your peril…..
NUBE NEGRA – 8/1
Trainer – Dan Skelton
Form – 12135/8B36/1122-1
Nube Negra has run once this season when defeating Altior at Kempton over the Christmas period. His biggest asset is his jumping as he is so quick from a to b, more so on the landing side. He has certainly improved this year but at the same time you have to question how below par Altior ran and the fact it was on soft ground.
Dan Skelton raves about this horse and since he went over fences last season, he has looked a different horse with his form reading 11221 and one of those defeats was by another of today’s runners, Rouge Vif, on good to soft ground.
He is only a 7 year old who is still improving but I have my reservations about what this horse will find under pressure. He may travel well through the race but I have a feeling, when he reaches the bottom of the hill, if others are close by, they will outstay him.
Quite a funny horse to be lining up in the Queen Mother as on breeding as far as lines go, Dink is not a big name sire, yet he has produced this wonderful horse.
As mentioned throughout this post, Cheltenham Form is key and this horse has been to Cheltenham 3 times (one festival, two on old, one on new course) and has failed to fire.
I can’t see him winning a championship race at this level, despite recently beating Altior, I think he is flattered by a very underperforming Altior.
For me at the price he is just too skinny and I would want bigger.
POLITOLOGUE – 9/1
Trainer – Paul Nicholls
Form – 21U210/112141/14422/251-12
Last year’s winner of the race and has to be respected. Although he won the race last year it was an absolute terrible renewal of the race. Having said that I am a big fan of the horse and always have been. He is just so consistent and always runs his race.
He is actually a four time Grade 1 winner but often in his career, when he has come up against the cream of the crop, he finds them too good.
As much as I like the horse and as much as he is so consistent, I have to swerve on him this time.
He is likely to go from the front and I think he may place but something will pick him up when they go up the hill.
One thing I will say is if pinches a lead and they give him a lack of respect, he could be a great in play bet.
PUT THE KETTLE ON 12/1
Trainer – Henry De Bromhead
Form – 52153/31111211-13
The winner of last year’s Arkle and mare who is going to get a handy 7lb weight allowance from the boys here. This is a horse who just loves it around Cheltenham and in 3 visits to the course, she has won 3 times (all old course).
She is a game horse likely to be prominent and if she is close at the bottom of the hill, she will be hard to get past given her toughness.
When all is said and done surely she is not up to winning a race of this calibre, even with the 7lb claim.
Trainer – Kim Bailey
Form – 4/4111P/5/22132111-111
Talking of tough horses they don’t get much tougher than First Flow. A real fighter who loves to be thrown into fences. He beat Politologue fair and square last time out with the gamest of front running rides. He gets on so well with David Bass and they are a joy to watch.
A horse who has only been to Cheltenham once and that was when being pulled up in the 2018 Supreme Hurdle.
All I have heard throughout his career is this horse needs it bottomless and he is not going to get that here which has to worry you. In fact he has had 18 career starts, 8 have been on heavy ground, 9 have been on soft ground, with only one on good to soft ground and that was all the way back in 2017 (over 4 years ago).
I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see him a non runner on the day if it dries out to what I expect it.
Trainer – Alan King
Form – 712211106/114369/12
Sceau Royal is a horse who over the years has probably not got the praise he deserves. He is a horse who has been running consistently well at the top since his career started in the UK, all the way back in October 2015. That is 5 seasons at the top and 14 wins to his name.
This season he has again been in good form and has won 3 races from 6 with a mix over hurdles and fences.
He was a recent winner of the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury, beating Champ by 2 lengths.
He is a very fast and accurate jumper of a fence and will relish the good ground which will be on offer.
He has previously run well in this race before when giving Altior a big fright. He jumped to the lead after the last fence but faded up the Cheltenham Hill.
Although he is consistent, I expect him to find a few too good, although on this ground, I expect him to travel very well through the race and could possibly sneak a place.
I wouldn’t begrudge anyone thinking of an each way bet on this horse as everything is in his favour. I believe at the odds who could be a dark horse.
I would certainly have this horse over First Flow and the likes of Put The Kettle On, with what I believe will be genuine good ground.
Trainer – Harry Whittingdon
Form – 1/5212113/14213-134
As you have read all through this very detailed blog, I have mentioned horses who need ground to be at their best. No horse in this whole race wants good ground more than Rouge Vif. Give this horse top of the ground and you will see an all together completely different horse.
His trainer keeps shouting it from the rooftops about how he needs good ground and he is often a non runner if the ground is soft and if he does run on soft ground, he puts in a bad performance. This is not new information and as I say Harry Whittington is pretty vocal about the ground every time he runs. You either listen or you don’t.
Now we can’t just go with the ‘trainers tell us so it must be true’ but his form tells us exactly what we want to know. His form on good ground or good to soft ground is 211121. Four wins from six starts on his favoured conditions.
This also includes an easy 7 length win of the Kingmaker Chase at Warwick when defeating Nube Negra last season by an easy 7 lengths, as a novice. He was also an easy winner at Cheltenham back in October when winning a handicap, carrying top weight, on the bridle.
Going back to course form, he was 3rd in last year’s Arkle to Put The Kettle On, in soft ground he would have hated, which again tells me he likes it around Cheltenham and both starts were on the Old course at Cheltenham, the same course this race will be run on.
Rouge Vif is still a very progressive 7 year old with untapped potential if given good ground and he is one horse of the unknown if he gets his ground.
He obviously needs to step up to win a race of this calibre but I would say he is one horse in the race, that you can’t put a ceiling on, at the top level, on the good ground he is going to get.
He is a very big price who I actually think will run a massive race at a huge price.
Chacun Pour Soi is the banker of the festival for many people and does come with a huge reputation. As the odds suggest he is going to be hard to beat. For me though I can see quite a few negatives against his name, which include ground concerns and course form. They are enough to take him on at his very short odds and he is not bulletproof.
Nube Negra is a horse I am happy to take on as I worry that he is not the most hardy horse and no doubt he will have to get into a battle up the hill, where he will find zilch. A strong traveller who will be swinging away on the bridle but it is at the business end what will count.
Politologue has to be respected as he won the race last year but it was a weak renewal and this race is ten times more competitive. He is a consistent horse who I think can place but likely to find one or two, too good.
First Flow and Put The Kettle On surely want a softer surface, in particular First Flow. On that basis I am happy to take the both of them on.
Sceau Royal is a horse I think will run a huge race on this ground and has been in good form all season. My reservations about him are what he will find up the hill.
That leaves me with ALTIOR and ROUGE VIF.
Let’s be clear here, I know ALTIOR is not the horse he once was but let’s be frank, a 90% horse of the one he once was would win this. Nicky Henderson is a genius at getting a horse ready for the big day and has been so cautious with this horse, since he got beat by Cyrname over 18 months ago. In fact he has run him just twice since that loss and he has been a non runner a number of times if things have not been quite right.
Nicky Henderson has told everyone and even got into arguments with the likes of Lydia Hislop, that the ground is absolutely crucial to him. He has minded this horse just like a baby over the last couple of years and it is the care and detail which has gone into the horse, which could be why we see the return of Altior here.
I am under no illusions about the fact that he comes into the race on the back of a defeat but it is a defeat on soft ground once again, the very ground that Nicky Henderson refers to him ‘hating’ and was given a relatively easy ride. Nico was not hard on the horse. The younger Altior we once knew would have got away with soft ground but as he has got older, the ground has proved to be a bigger problem.
Let us go back to the positives and the fact he remains ‘unbeaten’ on ground which is good or good to soft. He is ‘unbeaten’ at any Cheltenham Festival and any Cheltenham for that matter.
He is going to get a very fast pace here which is going to play to his strengths because if anything in his older age, he needs a test of stamina and not necessarily a speed test.
From what I am told they are fitting first time cheekpieces to sharpen him up and for a number of years I have been hoping he would be fitted with some headgear.
When you weigh everything up and think of how Nicky Henderson got Sprinter Sacre back to his best, it gives you a sense of deja vu and let’s face it racing needs a good story at the moment, nothing would be more fitting to see Altior win the Queen Mother for the 3rd time, at the mighty old age of 11.
At 7/1 he is simply too big a price to ignore given the horse is unbeaten at Cheltenham and unbeaten on the ground.
Come on the Alitor, what a horse and what a story this would be.
I am also going to play each way with ROUGE VIF simply because I think he is a horse of unknown quality when he has everything in his favour. I believe I know where I stand with the rest of the field and their ceiling of ability. One thing I don’t know is how good this horse can be, at the top level, when he gets favoured ground. I am not talking about thereabouts ground, I am talking about absolutely perfect ground. Ground which has not been run on since December and ground which is foot perfect.
I saw what he is capable of back in October when he won a handicap around Cheltenham carrying 11st 7lb, on good ground. He won on the bridle that day and my first impression was that the performance would not have looked out of place in a Grade 1. Now he needs to step up again if he is to be involved here but given what Harry Whittington has said throughout his career, he is a totally different horse on good ground.
He is a solid jumper who has previous form at the course and he might be able to take that step forward, being only a 7 year old.
At a big price I am happy to take my chances on ROUGE VIF.
(NOW A NON RUNNER) – ALTIOR 7/1 generally – 1 POINT E/W (3 places, 1/5 odds)
ROUGE VIF 22/1 generally – 0.5 POINTS E/W (3 places, 1/5 odds)
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