Tag Archive for: Chacun Pour Soi

Energumene holds off Chacun Pour Soi in Punchestown thriller

Chacun Pour Soi made his younger stablemate Energumene pull out all the stops in a thrilling renewal of the William Hill Champion Chase at Punchestown.

Having successfully defended his crown in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham last month, Energumene was the 2-7 favourite to also make it back-to-back wins in this two-mile Grade One.

Chacun Pour Soi, who won the race in 2021, is now very much in the twilight of his career at the age of 11 and recent efforts over a variety of trips had suggested his best days were behind him.

But the veteran proved there is life in him yet with a spirited display before eventually giving best on the run-in.

Trainer Willie Mullins fielded four of the five runners in all and the race was his for the taking after Henry de Bromhead’s front-running mare Magic Daze gave way long before the home turn.

Energumene, who had not entirely convinced in the jumping department, travelled smoothly into the straight under Paul Townend, but so did Chacun Pour Soi in the hands of Danny Mullins and the older horse had poked his nose by the time both horses landed after jumping the final fence.

Energumene, though, dug deep when he needed to, getting up in the closing stages to prevail by three-quarters of a length.

Mullins said: “He normally wins his races with class, but today he had to get down and fight it out. He answered every call from Paul and showed his grit.

Paul Townend celebrates winning the William Hill Champion Chase with Energumene
Paul Townend celebrates winning the William Hill Champion Chase with Energumene (Niall Carson/PA)

“Paul really pulled that race out of the fire and that’s the difference between a good jockey and a great jockey.

“You can see probably the end of the season getting to him. Paul said he wasn’t as sharp as his last run at Cheltenham and he missed two fences, which isn’t like him.

“I was delighted with Chacun Pour Soi. We had been trying different distances and it wasn’t working so we said today we’d come back to two miles. We’ll see what we do with him now and have a word with Rich (Ricci, owner).”

Townend added: “I know how good Chacun can be around here, so when he appeared I was worried. I thought it was going to come to the jump at the last and Danny seemed to get away from it a bit better than me.

“Chacun’s last furlong has always kind of been his slowest, though, so I had confidence in this lad getting him once Danny hadn’t gone on me.”

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Bachasson extends winning run with Cork glory

The prolific Bachasson led his rivals a merry dance to secure a 17th career victory in the Bar One Racing Chase at Cork.

The Willie Mullins-trained grey is in the twilight of his career at the age of 12, but proved the fire still burns bright when making a successful return from over two years off the track at Clonmel last month – his sixth win in succession.

Despite facing a six-time Grade One-winning stablemate in Chacun Pour Soi, who was testing the water over three miles for the first time in a bid to turn around his form, Bachasson was the 6-4 favourite to add to his tally and made every yard of the running in the hands of Sean Flanagan.

Chacun Pour Soi loomed up looking a threat on the run to the final fence, with Feronily also bang in the mix, but Bachasson found plenty once challenged to prevail by three and a quarter lengths, with Feronily narrowly beating Chacun Pour Soi to the runner-up spot.

Flanagan said: “I actually texted David Casey yesterday morning when I saw nobody down to ride him. That’s my third ride for Willie and my second winner, so I’ll try to keep up the strike-rate!

“Bachasson was attacking his fences and was very quick through the air. Obviously he liked the bit of nicer ground today and did it well. He is very very clever and still has loads of enthusiasm.

“He is a classy horse and every time he straightened up and saw a fence, he priced his ears and was attacking all the time – I was taking him back on the flat.

“He doesn’t feel like he’s a 12-year-old.”

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Chacun Pour Soi and Bachasson in Cork showdown

Chacun Pour Soi takes on stablemate Bachasson in the Bar One Racing Chase at Cork on Sunday.

Chacun Pour Soi has won six times at Grade One level over fences, but has been beaten in each of his three previous races this season and was last of nine in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last month.

The 11-year-old steps down in grade but up in trip for this weekend’s three-mile Grade Three – and his biggest danger appears to be fellow Willie Mullins-trained gelding Bachasson, who recently made a successful return from over two years on the sidelines at Clonmel.

Bachasson has been a fantastic servant to his connections
Bachasson has been a fantastic servant to his connections (Alan Magee/PA)

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “Bachasson has won 16 races in total and won his last six. He has never won over three miles, although he did run in a Gold Cup and I don’t see why it should be a problem.

“The bigger worry is maybe coming back quick after a long lay-off, but he seems to have come out of his Clonmel race very well and no doubt he will run well again.

“He has been an incredible horse and is a real yard favourite. Usually as (grey) horses get older they get white but he seems to be a Peter Pan and a steel grey which is quite unusual.”

Of Chacun Pour Soi, he added: “He is stepping up to three miles and it is a little bit of a shot in the dark. He has to give away an awful lot of weight, which won’t make life easy on him either.

“But Chacun Pour Soi has won at Cork before so we are just hoping he can get somewhere back to his best form as he doesn’t seem to be at his best this season so far.”

The Mullins pair head a five-strong field, with Ronald Pump (Ciaran Murphy), Feronily (Emmet Mullins) and The Little Yank (John Ryan) completing the quintet.

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Chacun in the frame for Newlands Chase task

Chacun Pour Soi could bid to get back to winning ways in Sunday’s Newlands Chase at Naas.

Willie Mullins’ multiple Grade One winner is now 11 and has struggled to recapture his former glories this season, coming home a well-beaten third on each of his two starts.

He is one of eight entries in the two-mile Grade Three, with Gordon Elliott responsible for Battleoverdoyen and the novice, Hollow Games.

“Hollow Games is the young horse in the line-up and is still a novice, but we are going to target the spring festivals with him and we decided to give him an entry for this race to give us the option,” said Elliott.

Hollow Games needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort at Christmas
Hollow Games needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort at Christmas (Brian Lawless/PA)

“He was very good when he won his beginners’ chase but disappointed us a bit at Christmas, so we’ve freshened him up and he’s ready to go now again. The stiff two miles should play into his strengths, but it looks a good race so we’ll make a call later in the week.”

Henry de Bromhead’s Coeur Sublime is also among the eight entries.

Elliott could also run Found A Fifty in the Grade Two Johnstown Novice Hurdle, which has the potential to be very informative.

“Found A Fifty couldn’t have done any more the last day and we’ve been happy with him since,” said Elliott.

“He is a horse we’re hoping to target at the big festivals this spring, so hopefully he’ll give a good account of himself this weekend and we’ll take it from there.”

Emmet Mullins’ Corbetts Cross, the Mullins-trained Tactical Move and Stuart Crawford’s Lily Du Berlais all hold claims.

As does John McConnell’s Jackpot De Choisel, a wide-margin winner at Ayr when last seen.

“We were delighted with his win at Ayr earlier this month,” said McConnell.

“The plan is to run him in the Grade Two at Naas on Sunday to get another run into him which will be good experience for a young horse. Sunday will be against older and more experienced horses as well, so hopefully that should stand to him and we’ll go to Cheltenham then, all being well.

“He has an entry in the Triumph Hurdle and Sunday should give us a steer towards there or the Boodles at Cheltenham. This will only be his third run, so hopefully there’s more to come from him.”

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Fakir D’oudairies prevails in dramatic Thurles feature

Fakir D’oudairies seized the opportunity to go one better than last season and claim an incident-packed renewal of Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase at Thurles.

Joseph O’Brien’s gelding finished second behind Allaho last term and was the 7-4 favourite on his return to the track under JJ Slevin.

In the Grade Two he travelled prominently but tailed the strong-finishing Haut En Couleurs and French Dynamite turning into the home straight.

The former looked have the race under control – but a final-flight fall ended his hopes while French Dynamite made a serious mistake behind him.

Fakir D’oudairies then swept through to take up the lead and crossed the line six lengths ahead.

Chacun Pour Soi had moved with promise for a long way, before dropping away quite tamely.

“He got a little lost around the turn and was galloping down the straight but obviously the horse in front fell, although we were coming for a challenge anyway,” O’Brien said.

“I was very pleased with the performance and pleased with how he jumped and it sets him up nicely for the spring. He was giving away weight and I feel as he is getting older, it is taking a bit more work to get him there.

“He is a young horse and over his career has been fantastic and always runs his race. He tries and is a great horse to have in the yard. Today’s race was a good one, they went a good gallop and it was a deep field so I’m very pleased.

“He will potentially go back to Ascot for the Grade One he won last year (Ascot Chase) and then we’ll look at the Ryanair Chase and Aintree. I suppose all those options will be left open.”

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Chacun Pour Soi steps into the unknown at Thurles

Chacun Pour Soi is the star attraction at Thurles on Sunday as the top-class chaser steps up in trip for the Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase.

The Willie Mullins-trained veteran has won six Grade Ones at or around two miles, including the last three renewals of the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival.

But having proved no match for Champion Chase-winning stablemate Energumene at Punchestown in the spring or Blue Lord at Leopardstown last month, connections of Chacun Pour Soi feel the time is right to try something new and he tests the water over two and a half miles in this weekend’s Grade Two feature.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “There’s been weaker Grade Ones run – it looks a very strong race. Fakir D’Oudairies is obviously one of the top two-and-a-half-mile horses.

Paul Townend celebrates after winning aboard Chacun Pour Soi at Punchestown
Paul Townend celebrates after winning aboard Chacun Pour Soi at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

“Chacun hasn’t always been the strongest of finishers over two miles, but going a half-stride slower will hopefully help him see the trip out.

“He’s just getting older now and there’s some faster horses in the two-mile division, so we’re seeing if we can push him out in trip and we’ll see what happens.

“He’s been an incredible horse, but time waits for no one, especially in the two-mile division as horses don’t get quicker as they get older.

“This will tell us where we’re going to go for the rest of the season.”

Chacun Pour Soi is set to face five rivals, including two other Closutton inmates in Royal Rendezvous and Haut En Couleurs.

Royal Rendezvous after winning the Galway Plate
Royal Rendezvous after winning the Galway Plate (Niall Carson/PA)

Royal Rendezvous steps back in distance after finishing last of seven over three miles in last month’s Savills Chase, while Haut En Couleurs was last seen placing fourth behind another Mullins superstar Galopin Des Champs in the John Durkan at Punchestown.

Mullins added: “Royal Rendezvous was coming off a break in the Savills. He’s got a very high mark as he’s a Galway Plate winner, I think he’ll come forward from that run and I’d imagine he’ll probably come forward from this run as well.

“Haut En Couleurs is getting plenty of weight, but on his rating he needs to. We’re hoping he’ll pick up some prize-money and run well again.”

The biggest threat to the Mullins brigade appears to be Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’Oudairies.

The eight-year-old has won four Grade Ones at the distance, was second in this race last year to the Mullins-trained Allaho and was best of the rest behind Galopin Des Champs last month.

The Mouse Morris-trained French Dynamite and Lifetime Ambition from Jessica Harrington’s yard complete the line-up.

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Champion Chase Trends

Staged at the Cheltenham Festival each March the Grade One Queen Mother Champion Chase is run over 2m, with 12 fences to tackle. This is where we give you the key Champion Chase trends to help you find the winner based on past statistics – use these trends to whittle down the 2022 Champion Chase runners and find the best past winning profile.

Run as the featured race on the second day (Wednesday) of the festival the race was first run back in 1959 and given the ‘Queen Mother’ title in 1980 to celebrate the Queen mum’s 80th birthday.

The betting for the 2022 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase sees the 2021 Arkle Chase winner - Shishkin - at the top of the market, with the likes of Energumene and the 2021 Champion Chase third Chacun Pour Soi best of the rest.

The Irish have won two of the last five runnings (both trained by Henry de Bromhead), but, surprisingly, it’s a prize that’s eluded the powerful Irish handlers - Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott.

12 months ago, we saw the 2020 Arkle winner - Put The Kettle On - follow-up, to record her third win on the Cheltenham track. She’ll be looking to join the likes of Altior and Master Minded aa recent back-to-back winners in the race.

Here at GEEGEEZ we look back at recent winners and highlight the key trends to take into the 2022 renewal – this year run on Wednesday 16th March.

Recent Queen Mother Champion Chase Winners

2021 - PUT THE KETTLE ON (17/2)
2020 – POLITOLOGUE (6/1)
2019 – ALTIOR (4/11 fav)
2018 – ALTIOR (Evs)
2017 – SPECIAL TIARA (11/1)
2016 – SPRINTER SACRE (5/1)
2015 – DODGING BULLETS (9/2)
2014 – SIRE DE GRUGY (11/4 fav)
2013 – SPRINTER SACRE (1/4 fav)
2012 – FINIAN’S RAINBOW (4/1)
2011 – SIZING EUROPE (10/1)
2010 – BIG ZEB (10/1)
2009 – MASTER MINDED (4/11 fav)
2008 – MASTER MINDED (3/1)
2007 – VOY POR USTEDES (5/1)
2006 – NEWMILL (16/1)
2005 – MOSCOW FLYER (6/4 fav)
2004 – AZERTYUIOP (15/8 fav)
2003 – MOSCOW FLYER (7/4 fav)


Queen Mother Champion Chase Betting Trends

16/19 – Had raced within the last 8 weeks
17/19 – Had won at least 5 times over fences before
17/19 – Had run over fences at Cheltenham before
15/19 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
13/19 – Returned 5/1 or shorter in the betting
13/19 – Won last time out
12/19 – Placed favourites
11/19 – Winning distance – 5 lengths or more
11/19 – Had won over fences at Cheltenham before
9/19 – Irish bred
8/19 – French bred
7/19 – Winning favourites
7/19 – Won by an Irish-trained horse
7/19 – Won the Arkle Chase the previous season
4/19 – Had won the race before
3/19 – Ran in the Game Spirit Chase (Newbury) last time out
The average winning SP in the last 19 runnings is 5/1

Other Queen Mother Champion Chase Stats

14 of the last 21 winners ran in that season’s Tingle Creek Chase (Sandown)
23 of the last 37 winners had previously won at the Cheltenham Festival
39 of the last 40 winners returned 11/1 or shorter in the betting
17 of the last 20 Arkle Chase winners to run the next season in this have finished placed or better
19 of the last 20 winners had won a Grade One Chase previously


Champion Chase – 24 Year Trends

17/24 – British-trained winners
7/24 – Irish-trained winners
Willie Mullins (Ire) is yet to train the winner
Nicky Henderson (UK) has trained 5 of the last 10 winners (won the race 6 times in total)
Paul Nicholls (UK) has trained 6 of the last 22 winners
Henry de Bromhead (Ire) has trained 3 of the last 11 winners
Jessica Harrington (Ire) has trained 2 of the last 19 winners











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Cheltenham Festival 2021: Favourites – Bankers or Blowouts?

Pretty much the last spectator-attended action of last year was the Cheltenham Festival and, regardless of the 20/20 hindsight about whether or not it should have had the green light for crowds, this year's event will be contested behind closed doors. That it will be contested at all, and that the entirety of the preceding seasonal narrative has played out - weather notwithstanding - is a cause for celebration during these times where not a great deal has been worthy of such emotional uplift.

With just 21 days until tapes rise for the opening skirmishes of the 2021 renewal of #CheltFest (I can hear the grinding of traditionalists' teeth as I pen that incendiary soshul shorthand!), time is nigh to fix mental bayonets and consider, in the round, what may transpire three weeks hence.

In this piece, we'll look at the shorties: those favourites whose current top quote is 5/4 or tighter. Using the age old hackney of 'banker or blowout', and mindful that for geegeez readers (and value players everywhere) the very notion of a banker is anathema, I'll offer a view as to which side of the back/lay divide I'd currently like to pitch my punting tent.

A recent history of short priced favourites at the Cheltenham Festival

First up, a short history lesson. The main lesson of history is "don't believe the hype", a message that resonates far beyond Festival jollies but which was poignantly reprised twelve months ago when, of the six favourites sent off at 5/4 or shorter, five were beaten. Ouch.

If that was a storm in the 2020 teacup, how does a more extensive tract of past performance influence our appetite for piling in at the sharp end?

As can be seen from the table and summary row above, there have been good times and bad times since 2009, with the management summary being that this is one of the less bludgeoning methods of wagering self-harm. But, of course, not all shorties are made equal; so is there anything to be gleaned from dividing what is already a very small dataset still further?

Despite the answer to that question almost certainly being 'no', for the record here are a couple of logical splits:

A lot of data manipulation and a very short read later we can now say the answer is certainly 'no'; which is unsurprising given the maturity of, and liquidity in, these markets. Nevertheless, when the media cries "certainty" and the market posits 4/6, punters are well served to beware.

The full list of qualifying runners is below, and may bring back painful memories for some, yours true included!

2021 Cheltenham Festival Shorties: Banker or Blowout

There is a quintet of ante-post shorties for this year's renewal of the Fez (yet more trads reaching for 'off' switch!) and they shape up price wise like this:

Time to consider each horse's respective merits...

Arkle Challenge Trophy: Shishkin

Form this season

Unbeaten in three facile wins in novice chases, most recently in a brace of Grade 2's, with no horse yet landing a glove on him. In spite of the small fields - he beat a trio of rivals in each - the form is solid and the times have been good. His fencing style is economical and comfortable: he has barely put a foot wrong thus far.

Shishkin is now unbeaten in seven completed starts, having fallen on his hurdling debut.

Cheltenham / Festival Form

Sent off 6/1 joint-third favourite for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle last year, he was hampered by a faller as the race was hotting up, but overcame that impediment to hold the late charge of Champion Hurdle fancy, Abacadabras. That was his only race at Cheltenham.

Obvious dangers

For a while this looked a matter of 'how far' assuming good health and a clear round, but the emergence of Energumene - an energumence? - as comfortably the best of the Irish has livened up the pre-race debate immeasurably.

On form, Willie Mullins' charge is a serious threat. But he does have a lot more questions to answer: how will he handle Cheltenham? Does he need to lead and, if so, how will he handle Allmankind? If he doesn't need to lead, he has yet to prove his effectiveness from further back. And how will he handle drier ground if indeed it pans out that way?

None of these are of concern to Shishkin, who looks sure to get his favoured lead - either from Allmankind, or that one and Energumene - and who will have every chance having dealt with all underfoot terrain, longer trips, and the Cheltenham contours already.

If Energumene and Allmankind lock horns on the speed, they may both pay for those exertions in the manner that Saint Calvados and Petit Mouchoir did in the 2018 renewal of this race, setting things up for a 14-length rout for Footpad. Shishkin is undeniably more of a horse than Footpad, and a tear up on the front end could see him record the largest winning distance of the meeting.

But if Energumene is ridden more conservatively, there are two possible dangers. The more obvious is that, in a fair fight, the Irish raider is simply better than the domestic challenger; the less obvious is that, by marking each other, the top two grant Allmankind - a very good horse in his own right - an easy and unassailable lead.

The other fly in the Shishkin ointment is the form of the Nicky Henderson yard, on the face of it at least: a single winner since 10th February, from 28 runners, is not the sort of record a Champion Trainer needs going into the biggest gig of the year. But, of course, we're not yet at the eve of Cheltenham and, in any case, that headline figure masks what have been largely acceptable (if not altogether pleasing) efforts from his Seven Barrows squad.

A place strike rate of 36% is more compelling, and a majority of runners have performed at least close to market expectation. Notably, the big guns - Chantry House, Champ - have run very well. Still, better will have been expected overall and better will be needed if Shishkin's price is not to flirt with odds-against between now and mid-March.


Shishkin looks a superb athlete and a very fast horse. His trainer is having a wobble just now but knows better than anyone - even Willie M - how to campaign a precocious two-mile chaser. Having ticked the race conditions boxes, and with a pace setup almost certain to play to his A game, he looks a 'banker' (relatively speaking).


Mares' Hurdle: Concertista

Form this season

Lightly raced, as is often the modus operandi with Willie Mullins' better mares, Concertista has run just twice this term. She beat the same mare, Minella Melody, by nearly two lengths in a Grade 2 in November and then by more than six lengths in a Grade 3 at the turn of the year.

The hallmark of those runs, and indeed her run style generally, is being held together off the pace before cruising through to prevail comfortably. In so doing it is hard to peg the level of her form exactly, always leaving the impression there is more in the tank.

Cheltenham / Festival Form

Presented off a layoff of eighteen months prior to the 2019 Mares' Novices Hurdle, Concertista saw off all bar Eglantine Du Seuil as a 66/1 chance that day. She had twenty rivals behind her and only a short head to the one in front. That singular race in the 2018/19 season meant she retained her novice status the following campaign and, lining up in the same race last March, she outclassed a similar 22-strong field by an emphatic dozen lengths.

This will be her third visit to the Festival and she offers very solid credentials on that score.

Obvious dangers

It very much depends who lines up on the day. If the ground dries out, it might be that connections of Honeysuckle decide to run over this two-and-a-half mile trip rather than the extended two of the Champion Hurdle. That would change the complexion markedly.

Likewise, though to a lesser degree, if Roksana stepped this way rather than to the Stayers' Hurdle, she would present a fierce challenge.

But there is very little depth to this field beyond the aforementioned three: they bet 9/1 Dame De Compagnie (who has been chasing, has four entries, and is far from a certain runner in this), 14/1 Verdana Blue (more likely for the County Hurdle, I think), and 20/1 bar (including Elimay, who more likely goes to the Mares' Chase).


If Honeysuckle goes to the Champion Hurdle and if Roksana goes to the Stayers' Hurdle, Concertista could be the shortest priced favourite at the meeting. If Honeysuckle comes here, she may be 4/7 or so.

This is a ground dependant conundrum: drying ground would increase the chance of Honeysuckle running here, but decrease the chance of Roksana doing likewise. Concertista is expected to run here regardless (though she is still entered in both the Champion Hurdle and the Mares' Chase).

The way to play this, if you're so inclined, is to back Concertista at 6/5 and Honeysuckle at 5/4, both non-runner no bet. Most likely, you'll have 6/5 about an odds-on shot and money back on the other; second most likely is that you'll have 5/4 about a 4/7 shot and a poor value back up ticket. That may not sound exciting right now but it is odds on to look value on the day.


Brown Advisory (ex RSA): Monkfish

Form this season

Another Willie Mullins inmate, Monkfish has been imperious this season in brushing aside talented opposition with relish. Monkfish with relish: tasty!

Lousy puns aside, he won his beginners' chase in a canter before being merely pushed out to record a pair of Grade 1 successes in recognised trials, by three lengths and then eleven lengths from the talented Latest Exhibition. He is by some margin the pick of the Irish challengers.

Cheltenham / Festival Form

Not only is Monkfish unbeaten in three chase starts this term, he is also the reigning Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle champ, earning a hard-fought verdict over... you guessed it, Latest Exhibition. That was his only visit to Cheltenham so he is unbeaten in one both at the track and at the Festival.

Obvious dangers

It is quite hard to find 'obvious' dangers to Monkfish. He has blitzed the best of the Irish this season, and he did the same to the best of the British and Irish here last season over hurdles.

Of course, he's a novice and the fences have to be jumped, so that's a possible issue.

In terms of potential rivals, Royale Pagaille has looked a mud machine this winter, but that one has numerous other possible engagements, principally the Gold Cup itself. Moreover, the two horses are in the same Ricci ownership and will surely attempt to divide and conquer.

The only other possible issue is ground: good to something would present a challenge met only once previously, when Monkfish was beaten into second on debut in a 2m2f bumper at the Punchestown Festival in May 2019.


It's double digits bar Fishcake - as Nicky Henderson once flippantly (and very amusingly, imho) labelled the jolly - and Royale Pagaille; and, with options over longer and shorter for shying rivals, this could cut up dramatically. Monkfish looks very strong in this division.


Champion Chase: Chacun Pour Soi

Form this season

Three runs, three wins, in Grade 2 and Grade 1 (twice) company, beating the right horses with nonchalance. He travels like a dream, jumps very well and, if he faces the starter at Cheltenham, will have managed more runs this season than in the previous two combined.

His form this campaign is well clear of any other two mile chaser on either side of the Irish Sea.

Cheltenham / Festival Form

It was all going so well, but then... Chacun Pour Soi was pulled out at the eleventh hour last year and, as such, has yet to race outside of Ireland. That leaves question marks not just over the track but also about travelling generally: he did come over on the boat last year but was withdrawn with a foot abscess.

Whilst it may very much be a case of abscess making the heart grow fonder (sigh), it also nods to this fella's hitherto fragility. Against that we do have a trio of scores, and an absence of scares, so far this term. But we have still to conjecture about his ability to handle the idiosyncrasies of Cleeve Hill.

Obvious dangers

He himself is the obvious danger. Will he stay in one piece? Will he handle the travel? Will he handle the track?

Of the other horses in the race, each has eroded his or her case at some point: Arkle winner Put The Kettle On was bashed by Chacun, albeit after what was a very hard race at Cheltenham first up this season, and she may bounce back training up to the race; Altior is patently not the horse he was; Politologue has a rock solid Champion Chase profile but not against the calibre of CPS; and Defi Du Seuil is a binary chap, more zeros than ones in recent times.

The leftfield option is First Flow, who was exhilarating at Ascot last time. He'd need supplementing, very likely, but he'd also need to improve another eight pounds on current ratings - less likely.


Chacun Pour Soi has to contend with himself. His form is in another postcode to his rivals in a market still trying to get him beaten with the wonderful but past his best Altior and a sizeable group of second division chasers. A horse like Fakir D'Oudairies, who is 20/1 NRNB in a place because he's more likely to fly Ryanair, might be a feasible hail mary in a race loaded with if's and but's.

Those imponderables extend to the favourite which makes him unplayable outright at the prices for all that he is the outstanding logical choice. [I did flag him in a derivative market at more appealing odds, as I don't really seeing him finishing second or third. He will win, or something will have happened between now and the finish line, is my wagering opinion.]


Marsh: Envoi Allen

Form this season

Three runs, three wins this campaign have meant Envoi Allen is now eleven from eleven lifetime under Rules (plus one point to point), all of them as favourite and only once at odds-against (the 2019 Cheltenham Champion Bumper). The middle leg of his 2020/21 hat-trick was a comfortable verdict in the Grade 1 Drinmore, and it was little more than a schooling round against Grade 3 rivals last time. I wasn't as impressed as some with that most recent effort for all that he still bolted up.

Cheltenham / Festival Form

Two tries at the track, both at the Festival, have yielded two victories; the Bumper score was by a narrow margin, his Ballymore victory more unequivocal. He beat 13 rivals the first day and eleven the second and, well, he just keeps winning.

Obvious dangers

This looks another case of getting to the start line. Unlike CPS, EA has been slated to start twice and has started - and finished first - twice. He's had an incident-free prep thus far and has jumped really well in his three chase races to date.

Still, those fences need to be jumped, and he has to arrive pristine at Prestbury. It is hard to nominate dangers thereafter.


The Brown Advisory would have meant a likely clash with Monkfish, the Arkle a ding dong with Shiskin, Energumene and Allmankind. The Marsh feels a bit like the coward's route for a horse boasting his CV. More generously, it is the best opportunity to extend the winning sequence.

You can bet double figures any other horse likely to run in this race - single digit quotes about Energumene and Monkfish don't even appeal NRNB especially - and there has to be some each way value, though I've yet to go through the fine detail to find it.

What is clear is that, on form, Envoi Allen is different kit.



Last year, five of the six horses sent off at 5/4 or shorter were beaten. This year, we look set to have at least five runners priced in that same bracket. Mishaps aside, it is hard (for me, at least) to make credible cases to oppose any of the quintet.

But mishaps do happen: in 2020, Paisley Park had a palpitation, Patrick Mullins was carelessly ejected from Carefully Selected (very harsh on the jockey, apols, poetic license for a play on words), Tiger was Roll'ed over by a heretofore unconsidered French assailant, Defi did the Defi thing, and 'mon dieu' Benie was beaten by Honey.

Any horse could come down or have a heart murmur in the heat of combat; Shishkin could get beaten by Energumene; a previously unsighted dark horse could emerge in one of the novice chases (though that feels unlikely).

In short, stuff could - and at some point probably will - happen. But I'd be hard pushed to bet against any of this quintet in the win slot if they trotted round at the start. That's my view, uncontroversial as it is. What about you? Which horse(s) would you hang your hat on? And where are you looking to get a hotpot beaten? Leave a comment and let us know.




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Two Cheltenham Festival Side Bets to Consider

February is upon us and, with it, the focus on the Cheltenham Festival becomes more intense. Regardless of the debate about the middle March showpiece overpowering the National Hunt calendar's narrative, there is no denying it offers a rich range of options from an ante post perspective. So, during this short hiatus from decent turf action, I thought it might be worth looking at a couple of the more interesting 'side bets'.

The growth of 'request a bet' type functionality has been a boon for bookmakers, with ambitious punters adding more and more elements which must occur in an event in order to trigger the cumulative payout. These are largely to be avoided though the related contingency (i.e. one element having a direct bearing on another element within the wager) factor can occasionally make such plays of interest. Here are two which might appeal - they did to me!

Arkle Chase - Shishkin to win by six lengths-plus (10/3 Skybet)

On first inspection, I was apprehensive of this. Not because I think the horse in question is poor value: on the contrary, I think he's a very, very likely winner where the biggest dangers are expected to be the form of his stable and the 13 fences between the rising tapes and jam stick.

Of stable form, it can be seen from the right hand part of the chart that the Henderson hordes have not been firing at their highest rate in recent months. Nor, mind you, has the win percentage been anything other than aspirational for most other yards.

Moreover, there is plenty of time for an uptick should such a thing even be necessary: it's not prevented Shishkin from strolling home in his three chase runs this season, most recently by eight widening lengths from a 150-odd-rated animal on Saturday.

And in terms of jumping acuity, he has yet to make a serious mistake in three chases. True, all were small field affairs, but the Arkle, too, will quite likely cut up to a handful of contenders.

The opposition looks a rung below Shishkin, with perhaps Energumene the only credible danger. A fortnight ago, he beat a rival of similar ability by the same margin as Shishkin won on Saturday; if that was a parallel performance, there is little doubt about the 'remaining gears' differential in my view. Moreover, Willie Mullins' charge was a little novice-y in places that day for all that he was entitled to be on just his second fencing start. One further slight question mark is whether Energumene needs to lead in his races: he has led or disputed in all four of his starts over obstacles though whether that was a function of class and staying out of harm's way, or is a tactical prerequisite, is moot. What is clearer is that, if he does go forward, he will very likely face a challenge from Allmankind who appears to have no plan B when it comes to run style.

All of the above verbosity is by way of suggesting that Shishkin will probably win assuming he turns up in one piece (never a given). But a top priced 8/11, whilst still very far from offensive in value terms, is unexciting for those of us with limited elevens to risk in the pursuit of eights. And here is where the winning distance comes in.

Skybet are actually offering prices on winning margins of 2+ lengths (10/11), 4+ lengths (2/1), 6+ lengths (10/3), 8+ lengths (5/1) and 10+ lengths (7/1). I'm interested in 6+ as the optimal value play. And here's why.

Last year, Put The Kettle On was a 16/1 chance when winning by a length and a half. There were 18 lengths back to the third placed horse. In the five previous renewals, the race went more in keeping with the form already in the book as 5/1 Duc Des Genievres was the only one of the quintet of Arkle winners between 2015 and 2019 to score at odds against. His winning margin was 13 lengths. The four odds-on scorers, in reverse chronological order Footpad, Altior, Douvan and Un De Sceaux, scored by, respectively, 14 lengths, six lengths, seven lengths and six lengths.

The tl;dr (bit late now, I realise) is that five of the last six winners - four of them, like Shishkin, odds-on favourites - won by six lengths or more. In that context, Shishkin - who has won all of his completed starts, by 8L, 11L, 11L, a neck, 23L, 13L, and 8.5L - looks very fairly priced at 10/3 to win the Arkle by six lengths or more.

The link to this market is here.


Queen Mother Champion Chase - Chacun Pour Soi to win by four lengths-plus (4/1 Skybet)

Suggesting an ante post position on a hitherto infamously infrequent racecourse attendee may seem a tad gung-ho, all the more so when said runner was withdrawn on the morning of the race last year. But there is a growing belief, in the heart and mind of this scribbler at least, that the 2020/21 Chacun Pour Soi model is a more robust one.

Exhibit A to that end are the two races - both comfortable victories, in Grade 2 and Grade 1 company - in one month, the final month of last year. If that's the good news, the less good news is that Exhibit B must likely follow this weekend at the (outright excellent) Dublin Racing Festival; and Exhibit C requires him to cross the Irish channel in mid-March sans sicknote.

That's a risk and there are no two ways about it: if you don't like that risk, don't make this bet. Indeed, don't make any bet on CPS without the 'non runner no bet' concession.

But if, like me, you think 4/1 more than accommodates the chance of his non-participation, then let's talk about the opposition and the winning margin, oppo first.

This season, I've been a Put The Kettle On fan and a Politologue fan and a Chacun Pour Soi fan. The first two have bombproof Cheltenham form while the headline act - in the context of this proposed wager - has had a look around Cleeve Hill but not yet galloped there in anger. If anything was to happen to CPS, I'd split my stake between the other two named here, and might chuck in Rouge Vif in the unlikely event we get a six week drought henceforth. I can't have Altior, as much as my heart wrestles my head to consider him: he's just too long in the tooth now, before we even consider the depth of the Kempton form behind Nube Negra (a horse arguably a good bit better suited to Aintree than Cheltenham, though he has run well at the Festival).

Chacun was imperious at Christmas, value for plenty more than the official six and a half lengths. He will again face the second horse from that Grade 1, Notebook, if both stand their ground at the weekend, and the fact that Notebook is circa 5/1 third choice for Dublin's Festival Chase speaks of the paucity of opposition once more. There is the not inconsiderable frame of Min betwixt and between in the weekend market but, in the same ownership as Chacun Pour Soi, it is unclear what might be gained from that pair locking horns. Mind you, they did last season, CPS prevailing by most of four lengths.

Put The Kettle On jumped poorly under Sean Flanagan when slammed by CPS and Notebook last time but can be expected to improve both for a return to Cheltenham and the presumed return of Aidan Coleman to the saddle. In that light, she's of minor interest at 14/1 each way and also worth at least a second glance when the 'without the favourite' market emerges. But it is hard to see her turning tables with her last day vanquisher.

Of the home team, Politologue had been under-rated a touch in my view: his Festival record is excellent and he is the reigning champ. He'd looked good this season before being undone by an absolutely terrific performance from First Flow at Ascot ten days or so ago. Kim Bailey's charge reminded me of something between Denman's belligerence and the young Master Minded's panache: he has some way to go ratings-wise to be within a half furlong of that pair but his Ascot performance was, visually, everything jump racing should be.

In terms of race tactics at Cheltenham, if First Flow and Politologue again have at it a mile and more from home, as they did at Ascot, they'll be spent when CPS presents arms at the turn in, and that one ought to run away from them thereafter, assuming he handles the track.

The margin of victory of Champion Chase-winning favourites in recent years is thus: Altior 2019 (1 3/4 lengths), Altior 2018 (7 lengths), Sire De Grugy 2014 (6 lengths), Sprinter Sacre 2013 (19 lengths), Master Minded 2009 (7 lengths).

If Chacun Pour Soi runs and wins at the Dublin Racing Festival this weekend - he's currently a best priced 4/9 so to do - he'll be shorter for the winning margin bets and odds on for the Champion Chase. If he doesn't run, he'll be circa evens on the day assuming he shows up. If he runs and gets beaten, who knows? But, like I say, I think he's a more robust animal this season, and I'm prepared to back that perception.

So here's the rub: if Chacun Pour Soi wins the Champion Chase, I believe he'll win by a 'fresh air' margin. And if he doesn't... well, you might as well have 4/1 as 6/5 about the same loser.

The  link to this market (at the bottom, in the 'lengthen the odds' section) is here.


There will be lots of to and fro in the six weeks from now until the Cheltenham Festival gets underway. A few positions on shorties at fancier prices, for all that the spectre of our picks winning but not by far enough looms, may help to wile the worst of these remaining Covid days.


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