Altior is one of the star attractions of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. Trained by Nicky Henderson, the nine-year-old gelding has never lost a race over hurdles and fences in 17 starts.
tar attractions of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. Trained by Nicky Henderson, the nine-year-old gelding has never lost a race over hurdles and fences in 17 starts.
His victories include three previous Cheltenham successes, in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Arkle Challenge Trophy and Queen Mother Champion Chase. With Altior widely expected to retain his title in the latter, he is a very short price with bookmakers and thus set to equal the record set by Big Buck’s for the most consecutive wins over jumps.
Given his formidable reputation, betting against Altior, even taking an each-way punt, seems risky. An alternative gambling approach to the Champion Chase then, is to look at the betting without the favourite. Here’s how that market is shaping-up.
Could be a case of either Min or Footpad
Willie Mullins trains two of the leading contenders in the Champion Chase betting, without Altior, offered by Paddy Power. He may decide to keep dual Grade 1 winner Min (5/4) and Footpad (15/8) apart, especially as the former has twice gone down by seven lengths to the Henderson horse at this meeting.
Both Min and Footpad have the scope to run well over further. However, it’s the former who has top class form over an intermediate trip, after winning the 2m 4f John Durkan Chase at Punchestown on reappearance.
Footpad was awesome in his novice campaign over fences last season, but little has gone right since. A repeat of his Arkle win over course and distance 12 months ago would see him push Altior close.
One rival, who is well-held on this season’s form, is Un De Sceaux (9/2). Also trained by Mullins, the veteran could instead bid to regain the 2m 5f Ryanair Chase, also run at Cheltenham, which he won with a bold round of jumping in 2017.
Sceau Royal has scope for further improvement
Footpad’s owners, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, also have another Champion Chase entry and course and distance winner in Sceau Royal.
The Alan King-trained seven-year-old landed the Grade 2 Shloer Chase at Cheltenham back in November, but was then put firmly in his place by Altior when fourth in the Tingle Creek at Sandown.
Sceau Royal can still make further progress though, and that is why he’s 4/1 in the betting without the favourite. While the Paul Nicholls trained runner, Politologue (6/1), is racing over further these days, northern raider Lady Buttons is the only mare who could line-up in the Champion Chase.
Philip Kirby’s nine-year-old has won all four of her starts this season, but has largely raced against fellow mares. Lady Buttons,, who alone could receive weight from Altior via a 7lb sex allowance, is an interesting contender in the market without him, at 8/1.
Fox Norton, a head second to the late Special Tiara in the Champion Chase two years ago, could come on for his last two runs, and is the same price.
Bar those names, veteran duo God’s Own (16/1), who was third at a big price last year, and Simply Ned (12/1), have chances of chasing the favourite home on the pick of their form.
The betting without Altior is thus lively, despite the Champion Chase winner looking cut and dried for many.