Wednesday March 17th - Day Two
15:20 - Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase – 2 miles
Prize Money £320,000
In the summer of 2007, Clive Smith, owner of Kauto Star, reputedly paid over €300,000 to acquire a three year old French Chaser who clearly impressed him to cough up a sum reserved for flat horses. (By contrast War of Attrition was purchased for €15,000, Istabraq for €57,000). The horse Smith bought was Master Minded, he joined the powerful Paul Nicholls yard and on his race debut, a four runner graduation chase, he started at odds of 8/13 favourite and promptly unseated rider Sam Thomas at the third fence.
8 wins later including a Victor Chandler Chase, Tingle Chase, Kerrygold Champion Chase and the small matter of two Queen Mother Chase victories, the early career setback is long forgotten and Paul Nicholls has said on several occasions that “He’s the best I’ve trained, and probably the best I’ll ever train”
This year, Master Minded is seeking his third successive win in the Champion Chase, a feat only achieved by one other horse, Badsworth Boy (1983-85). There have been plenty of double wins in the race including Moscow Flyer, Hilly Way and Viking Flagship. Master Minded achieved his first win in the Queen Mother Chase when demolishing the then-champion, Voy Por Ustedes by 19 legths. In 2009, Master Minded won the race again at odds of 4/11 by 7 lengths. This season he was third in his debut, he was subsequently found to have a broken rib yet still finished within 3 lengths of the winner. His last race, the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase saw him coast to victory by 13 lengths, he did make a bad mistake at the last but jockey Ruby Walsh accepted full responsibility for that blunder. Well Chief, the horse that beat Master Minded earlier this season is a 33-1 chance; the second horse that day, Mahogany Blaze is 100-1 while Master minded is currently the 4-5 favourite for the race.
Kalahari King, who was a short-head second to Forpadydeplasterer in last years Arkle, raced once this season to date, winning a Handicap Chase in early February, still he was fourth in a supreme novices hurdle but might not possess the class of Master Minded. He is also 9 and in a race suited to younger horses (Just one winner older than 10 since 1997) so his chance might have passed.
Irelands strongest challenge will come from the giant Big Zeb, he won the Grade 2Fortria Chase in Navan as well as the Paddy Power Dial-a-bet Chase and the Swordlestown Cup but his race record in England reads 4/F, he fell in the Champion Chase last year and was beaten 33 lengths by Twist Magic in this year’s Tingle Creek. He was a head second to Master Minded in last years Kerrygold Champion Chase but can be prone to jumping errors.
Twist Magic a faller in last years renewal of the Champion Chase, sixth the year before and a faller in an his Arkle does not seem to get around Cheltenham very well. He has won a Kerrygold Champion Chase and this year’s Tingle Creek and Victor Chandler Chase but ultimately I cannot see any other result than a steering job for Ruby Walsh aboard Clive Smiths gelding and in Master Minded succeeding in a well-deserved Queen Mother hat trick.
• All of the last 31 winners finished placed at worst last time out.
• 9 of the last 11 Arkle Trophy winners were 1st or 2nd in this race the next year.
• 26 of the last 28 winners started at single-figure odds.
• 19 of the last 25 winners had been placed at the Festival before.
Tip: Master Minded (pictured below)