The Champion Chase: An Open and Shut Case?

One of the things about being opinionated, dear reader, is that the albumen on physiognamy (egg on face) situation is never far from occuring. And so it was that this time last year, I made extremely bullish noises about the fact that a horse called Master Minded could NOT win the Champion Chase.

As it transpired, I was wrong. Very, hopelessly, laughably wrong. Master Minded turned in one of the mightiest demolition job performances I've ever seen. It was a championship event, and the best of the best had turned out, trained to their minutes for the collective big day. But it was a man and boys story, with the boy (as a 5yo, he was the youngest ever winner of the race) becoming the man.

Master Minded goes to Cheltenham on the second Wednesday in March as the boiling hot favourite. Is there anything to beat him? Or is this a lap of honour for the returning king? On all known form, he's a cert (bar a fall). What do the trends tell us? There are 19 entered, most of whom won't run...

- The last ten winners had previously won that season. Strike through eight, including Twist Magic and unraced Well Chief

- 9 out of the last 11 winners were aged 6 to 10. (The two who weren't were Moscow Flyer, 11, and Master Minded himself, 5). Bye bye Ashley Brook and previous winner Newmill (who had failed the first stat too).

- 10 of the last 11 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 chase in the Festival winning season.

That leaves just four: Master Minded, Big Zeb, Scotsirish, and Voy Por Ustedes. Voy Por is headed for the Ryanair Chase (openly swerving the Master), which leaves three. Indeed, both Scotsirish and Big Zeb are also entered in the Ryanair, but are more likely to run in this event.

Although Master Minded is far and away the most likely winner, it is worth bearing in mind the following:

2007 Well Chief, Fell, Evens favourite

2006 Kauto Star, Fell, 2/1 favourite

2004 Moscow Flyer, Unseated rider, 5/6 favourite

Brilliant horses, who seemingly only needed to jump round to win, failed to do that. Personally, I hope Master Minded completes and wins in the style of the wonder horse he clearly is. He's still just a SIX year old!

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But something has to finish 2nd and 3rd, and we'll get paid on both places, so each way is a pleasure on the two Irish horses, Scotsirish (prefers soft) and Big Zeb (needs to jump well).

Big Zeb (e/w) is a best priced 12/1 with Paddy Power, who are offering a quarter the odds 1-2-3. There might not be eight runners on the day, meaning there might not be three places, and there will almost certainly not be much quarter odds on the place, come the day. So get some of this now.

Scotsirish (e/w) has finished 1st and 3rd in Grade 2 races on his last two runs, but might defect to the Ryanair. Nevertheless, he is a massive price, so a tiny each way tickle at the available 100/1 (quarter odds 1-2-3; if he's a non runner, you'll get your money back) with bet365.

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Now for some Thursday Fun, and yours truly is actually featuring in an online women's magazine today. Of all things!

The link is here:

http://www.whispermag.co.uk/columns/209228/featured_man_matt_b.html

Shameful, shocking, shambolic. And that's just the photo!!!

Happy Thursday.

Matt