For all his 72 winners over the years at the Cheltenham Festival, the Queen Mother Champion Chase still somehow eludes Willie Mullins. It’s not for the want of trying, and he has come agonisingly close in the past. It’s hard to believe that the seven-time Festival Top Trainer is still waiting on a maiden victory in the day two feature race given that Douvan, Un De Sceaux and Minhave all had a crack at the two-mile outing, but the best any of them could achieve in the Champion Chase was a second-place finish.
However, all unwanted streaks will come to end an eventually. Let’s not forget that until 2019, the Irish trainer was yet to get his hands on the Gold Cup, and this year he is on the hunt for his third successive victory on the trot in the showpiece event with Al Boum Photo, who as a result could etch his name into the history books alongside the likes of Arkle and Best Mate.
Many punters and horse racing experts are tipping this to be the year that Mullins finally ends his Champion Chase dry spell and pockets the £168,810 prize pot for winning the Grade 1 race.
Ultimately, the pressure falls on Chacun Pour Soi and Mullins’ trusty jockey Paul Townend, who has become somewhat accustomed to winning rides aboard the nine-year-old, having failed to land a victory on just one of his six times in the saddle.
Chacun Pour Soi was amongst the favourites for last year’s Champion Chase, which was billed to be one of the best races of the meeting. The nine-year-old was supposed to line up for Starter’s Orders alongside DefiDu Seuil and Champion Chase heavyweight Altior.
However, those who searched ‘today’s racing results’ on the second day of last year’s Festival would have been disappointed to notice that he was pulled from the race due to a stone bruise, whilst Altior was also withdrawn due to injury, and Politologue went on to win the race as Defi Du Seuil went out on a whimper.
Three more wins on the trot since missing last year’s Festival has resulted in Chacun Pour Soi firmly reinstating himself as the market leader for this year’s Champion Chase, and at odds of 4/6, it is hard to see anyone else romping home over the line ahead of the nine-year-old.
The Mullins-trained horse got back on track following his injury upset with an expected win in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork last December, but his two most recent successes are more notable. It was a quick turnaround following that Grade 2 victory, as he raced in the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown just after Christmas, but it didn’t faze Chacun Pour Soi and he won the Grade 1 race by over six lengths.
Townend made it two massive victories for the horse’s connections in a row with an eight-length win in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown last month, and it was further proof – as if it was needed – that it will take a special run to beat Chacun Pour Soi at the Cheltenham Festival.
Some would argue that, much like Defi Du Seuil last year, it’s Chacun Pour Soi’s race to lose. His nearest opponent in the betting market is Altior at 7/1. However, the two-time Champion Chase victor has been a shadow of his former self of late, perhaps because he is in the autumn of his career. 8/1 shot Nube Negra is yet to prove himself at Grade 1 level, whilst Politologue (8/1) was disappointing last time out at Ascot as well.
Mullins more than anyone will certainly be hoping that Chacun Pour Soi can do what Douvan, Un De Sceauxand Min, who is expected to defend his Ryanair Chase crown according to Cheltenham day 3 tips, could not.