Queen Mother Champion Chase 2016
Royalty and racing go back a very long way (Henry VIII imported breeding stock and Queen Ann started Ascot to the best of my knowledge), but the Queen Mother was an ever popular patron of the sport and is sadly missed by many to this day, fans and professionals alike.
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Whether you or I are a royalist or not, she did a lot of good for the sport and thoroughly deserves a race named in her honour, and with the two mile Champion Chase, her majesty has one of the most enthralling and thrilling events of the week to look down upon.
There may be a mere twelve fences to be negotiated, but taking them efficiently and at high speed is a skill in it’s own right and sorts the men from the boys here, with one poor jump enough to knock the stuffing out of a horse, turning him from likely winner to also ran in a fraction of a second.
Getting the stride right at close to 30 miles per hour is pretty imperative, so the role call is littered with class horses and class jockeys, though the combination has to work together as a team to be seen to best effect, jockey deciding and horse listening for a change!
Thanks to the power of horses upgrading from the Arkle one year to the Champion Chase the next, there are very few horses who have doubled up or retained their titles, and with the exception of Badsworth Boy (1983, 1984, and 1985), no horse has managed to score the hat-trick - winning once though, is more than enough for most owners, in a race that possibly carries more prestige than any other.
Interestingly, although the chasers are getting younger now that we are bringing in more experienced French horses (who go chasing at an earlier age), the last three winners have all been aged nine, though Master Minded did score aged five in 2008 and again aged six the following year, so all things are possible.
The Irish like to target this race (as they do all the others, to be fair), and with five winners from the last ten renewals they are pretty successful, though this year it looks as though everyone has to look to neat Sprinter Sacre who is already odds on for next March for the Nicky Henderson stable.
Those looking to oppose the favourite can take heart by the fact that Sizing Europe was beaten at odds of 4/5 while favourites have an anything but impeccable record in recent years (even Master Minded got beaten in 2011), and with so many difficult fences to be taken at speed in front of a sell out (and invariably loud) crowd, there is no such thing as a certainty in this game.