16 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival day two – All eyes on Champion Chase rematch

16 March 2022

Day two of Cheltenham looks to have something for everyone. The Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase is the feature race – but what a mix there is with the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, an intriguing Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, a Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle that never fails to please and two impossible handicaps to solve, the Coral Cup and the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual. A feast indeed.

Shishkin is the undoubted headline act as he bids to win at the Festival for the third year running after taking the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2020 and the Arkle Trophy last year. By winning the Champion Chase he would give trainer Nicky Henderson a record seventh success and join the likes of recent superstars Sprinter Sacre and Alitor in the pantheon of two-mile greats from Seven Barrows.

Tiger Roll will be the horse so many want to see when he lines up for what will be his swansong in the Cross Country Chase. The dual Grand National hero has been a standing dish at Prestbury Park. He has appeared every March since 2014, with the exception of 2016. His record is remarkable with five wins, including three in this race. What a roar there will be if he strikes again at the age of 12 in his 45th career start.

Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame has been mentioned in the same breath as Denman and could enhance his reputation in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, while another star could be born in the Champion Bumper with Willie Mullins unleashing Facile Vega. Not only has he demonstrated plenty of ability in winning his two races to date, but his dam is the Cheltenham legend Quevega. Wednesdays do not come much better than this.

Shishkin out to show he is just champion

Shishkin sails over a fence on is way to winning the Arkle Trophy and now he carries GB hopes in the Queen Mother Champion Chase (David Davies/Jockey Club) (PA Archive)

Shishkin is one of the big hopes of the week for the British to keep the Irish at bay. Henderson’s crack two-miler has won all of his seven races over fences and is deservedly a short-priced favourite for the Champion Chase. But it is unlikely to be a cakewalk for the eight-year-old as he faces his old adversary Energumene. They clashed in the race of the season so far at Ascot in January when Shishkin caught the Mullins runner close to home to land the Clarence House Chase. Mullins also has Chacun Pour Soi, who was only third when odds-on favourite for this contest 12 months ago. Throw in last year’s winner Put The Kettle On and runner-up Nube Negra and it is truly a race to savour.

One last Roll of the dice

Tiger Roll goes for a fourth win in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase in what will be his last race (David Davies/Jockey Club) (PA Archive)

If Shishkin does not bring the house down then Tiger Roll certainly will if he wins the Cross Country Chase for a fourth time. Gordon Elliott’s flagbearer will bow out after his eighth appearance at the Festival and it would be fitting if he crowned it with success. He has shown little on the track in three races since trouncing Easysland in this race last year but if any place can revive the Tiger then it is Cheltenham and the different obstacles this test provides.

Bravemansgame takes aim

Bravemansgame winning the Betfair Cheltenham Roarcast Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (Steven Paston/PA) (PA Wire)

Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame has comfortably won all of his four chase starts to date, catching the eye with his impressive jumping and proving he is not lacking in stamina when brushing aside Ahoy Senor in a much-anticipated clash in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. The two horses meet again in the Brown Advisory but both have more to contend with this time as the Irish charge is led by Mullins’ Capodanno while the Venetia Williams-trained L’Homme Presse, unbeaten over fences, is thrown into the mix also.

Quevega’s son bidding to uphold family honour

Galopin Des Champs will be a warm order for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (Niall Carson/PA) (PA Wire)

Quevega etched her name into Cheltenham folklore by dominating the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle from 2009 to 2014 inclusive. Now it is the turn of one of her offspring to make his mark when Facile Vega lines up for the Champion Bumper. The five-year-old’s reputation has seen him go off odds-on for both his races so far and he has not disappointed winning with consummate ease. Like Quevega, Facile Vega is with the Mullins yard and a 10th win in this race from just 15 runnings could be in the offing for the Closutton handler. Elliott may think otherwise and he has a fascinating contender in American Mike, who has also made a big impression in his two races under rules.

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