The 2020 Cheltenham Festival is only a matter of weeks away now and horse racing connections and punters alike are gearing up to what plans on being another thrilling four-day meeting. The odds on Cheltenham 2020 winners can be found online and there’s one market which is packed full of talent, promising to be one of the most competitive renewals in recent times.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase is the highlight race on day two and last year’s winner Altior is the current favourite once again this year. He faces tough competition from Defi du Seuil who has three wins from as many races this season, and Chacun Pour Soi who has placed in every race since joining Willie Mullins’ yard. But ahead of the centrepiece, let’s take a look back at some of the Champion Chase’s greatest winners.
2019: Altior equals world record
It was a far from perfect performance from the hot-favourite, but Altior not only retained the Queen Mother Champion Chase for a second year running, but also extended his record of consecutive wins from jump races. It was, at the time, an 18th successive victory for the Nicky Henderson-trained horse – a record he would go on to break in his following race, still with Nico de Boinville in the saddle.
But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and Altior’s winning run of 19 races ended in defeat in the 1965 Chase at Ascot, in November. With just three entries taking part, he was beaten by Paul Nicholls’ Cyrname. The 10-year-old recently returned to winning ways with victory at Newbury’s Game Spirit Chase, so goes into Cheltenham in good form, hence why he is the favourite again.
2016: Sprinter Sacre’s amazing comeback
Sprinter Sacre famously won the 2013 Champion Chase, and that year, completed the hat-trick of wins in major spring Festival chases, also winning at Punchestown and Aintree. Unfortunately, for the Henderson-trained gelding, injuries took their toll and he spent a lot of time away from the track – the whole of 2014, in fact – and in his comeback season, failed to win any of his races in the early part of the year.
In 2016, he made his third appearance in the Champion Chase, having been pulled up the previous year. He was made the second favourite behind Un de Sceaux and despite spending most of the race behind the leaders, he made rapid progress and took the lead approaching the second last. Silencing the doubters, Sprinter Sacre destroyed his rival, winning the race by three-and-a-half lengths – not quite as impressive as his margin of victory three years previous, but given the circumstances, an incredible achievement.
After overcoming Un de Sceaux the following month in the Celebration Chase at Sandown, he was retired the same year – after sustaining a leg tendon injury in preparations for the Tingle Creek Chase.
2008: Master Minded success at a young age
In 2008, French-bred Master Minded tore apart the field, not only winning by 19 lengths over defending champion Voy Por Ustedes, but making history in the process. To this day, the gelding is the youngest horse ever to win the Champion Chase – winning that year as a five-year-old, before retaining his title the following year too.
It was a sudden emergence onto the horse racing scene for Nicholl’s bay, who had previously raced in France under Guillaume Macaire, but he had won his two races in British racing, prior to the Champion Chase. After that, there was no stopping him, and Master Minded ended that season as the highest-rated chaser in the world. Although his win in 2009’s Chase wasn’t as memorable, it was another win for jockey Ruby Walsh, who was the festival’s top dog for a second year running.