In the most open Champion Chase for years, jumping fluency might be the deciding factor.
Dodging Bullets has not jumped quite so well on faster ground, although it’s difficult to judge whether better jumping has been part of his general improvement.
SDG can make the odd howler and very much strikes me as a horse who relies a lot on the confidence of his jockey. If he gets one wrong early and Jamie gets nervous, I think he’ll struggle. Many thought him back to his best at Chepstow. The horse did the job well, but did not look to me to have his old sparkle. Compare his demeanour at Chepstow to that of his win at Ascot last season in similar ground, when he tanked through the race and waltzed away with obvious exuberance.
Champagne Fever is a lovely horse, but one with blemishes on his jumping record, although he can throw some fine fast jumps. I’m always concerned when connections cannot decide what a horse’s best trip is. He ran in the King George, was prominent for a long time in the ante post market for the Ryanair, and I’m just wary that he is one of those in-betweeners.
Champion Bumper winners tend to be better at distances beyond 2 miles. I know he won The Supreme, but Ruby nicked that with a wonderful ride. CF then got mugged in the Arkle by a horse 23lbs inferior on official ratings. After today, I think they’ll regret missing the Ryanair
I like Mr Mole a lot, but he often jumps low, not quite getting his hocks under him and he could pay today unless he picks his feet up.
I like Special Tiara too, and if he doesn’t burn himself out, his jumping could hold up and he could spring a surprise. I’ll be having a small bet on him and the same each way on old Sizing Europe who is at least twice the price he should be in the 66/1 offered by Stan James.
In seven previous visits to Cheltenham, Sizing has been unplaced only twice, and one of those was when he broke down in the Champion Hurdle.
Had he lost his form completely, as he’d be entitled to do at 13, I wouldn’t consider him. But he won a Grade 1 at Punchestown less than a year ago and effectively started the new season with a victory over over Road to Riches. Without wishing to jinx him, his jumping has always been sound and that might stand him in good stead today.
Anyway, let’s hope they all come back safe. Some kind of fairytale awaits in the QM, it just remains to be seen who the hero will be.