February 7 - Just a few months ago it seemed that the 2018 Queen Mother Champion Chase was going to be something of a procession for Altior. There were several reasons for this: Nicky Henderson's star asset had won 11 races in succession, including the Arkle Chase last year; Douvan, the most likely rival to Altior, had not been seen since suffering an injury at Cheltenham last year; no other competitors, with the possible exception of Politologue, had ready made a statement to suggest they were ready to take the crown.
However, the script seems to have been torn up somewhat since Min's dazzling performance at the Coral Dublin Chase on 3rd February. In what was a quality line up, featuring Yorkhill, Simply Ned and 2017 Champion Chase winner Special Tiara, Min won by an impressive 12 lengths. The most eye-catching aspect of the win was the fact that Min looked like he could have travelled on for another 10 miles without losing a beat. It really was a superb performance, but crucially, it was a performance that suggested Min has much more to offer.
That victory has really opened up the betting markets for the 2018 Champion Chase, with Altior (11/10), Min (5/2) and Politologue (4/1) all very close in Bet365's latest odds. Much could change between now and the time the race goes off on the 14th March, so click the link to get the latest betting tips and daily updates leading up to Cheltenham Festival. Incidentally, Douvan is still priced at 9/2 with Bet365. While that would be pounced upon if he were fully fit, nobody really knows what is going on, so it should be viewed as a shot in the dark.
Going back to Altior, it seems pretty bizarre that bookmakers are touting so short a price for a horse that has not been in a competitive race since April last year. He missed the early part of the season with a breathing issue, but Nicky Henderson has moved to quell any fears about his fitness, stating on Twitter recently that, "His work has been good and we're very happy.". Still, that should not fill punters with confidence with so little time before the Festival kicks off.
The other candidate being talked up on betting forums is Politologue. Trained by Paul Nicholls, he has won all three of his races this season. Punters will look back to his performance in the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham last year however, where he finished fourth by a good distance behind Yorkhill. The field of this year's Champion Chase will be very different to what he has faced this season. Doubts remain about his credentials.
There was something special about the way Min finished the Dublin Chase. It was the kind of marker thrown down by a horse who wants to no longer be considered as a good horse but be considered a great one instead. With Ruby Walsh likely to take the reins, Min could be in a position to make that statement come true on 14th March.