open menulivescore

Cheltenham Festival: Queen Mother Champion Chase preview
Copy icon

Enda McElhinney
Racing Post
El Fabiolo won the Arkle at Cheltenham last season under Paul Townend and now they have the Champion Chase in their sights
El Fabiolo won the Arkle at Cheltenham last season under Paul Townend and now they have the Champion Chase in their sights

- This year's Cheltenham Festival takes place from March 12-15
- The feature race on the second day is the Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.30pm)
- Recommended bets: 
- El Fabiolo to win 
- Maskada each-way

Willie Mullins had to wait for eventual glory in Cheltenham's two most prestigious chases but, as he tends to, the Irishman has made a habit of winning them since he got his hands on the Gold Cup and Queen Mother Champion Chase.

It was not until Al Boum Photo won in 2019 that Mullins landed the Gold Cup, while it was three years later that Energumene bagged him a first ever Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Energumene defended that crown last spring but injury has ruled him out of a bid for an historic three-in-a-row. 

The Festival's all-time leading trainer just happens to have the ideal supersub waiting to fill that breach.

El Fabiolo ready to take over 

The Mullins machine may be shorn of Energumene this season, a tendon injury having sidelined him, but the Closutton production line keeps on turning and EL FABIOLO looks tailor-made to fill the breach left by the two-time defending champion.

Seven times since the turn of the century the Arkle winner has returned to Cheltenham 12 months later and landed the Queen Mother Champion Chase and it is very hard to oppose the claims of El Fabiolo becoming the eighth horse to achieve the feat, and the first since Put The Kettle On in 2021.

El Fabiolo has tasted defeat only once since he arrived from France to join the Mullins team and that came by a neck behind Jonbon in an Aintree Grade 1 novice hurdle in 2022.

Since he switched to chasing, defeat has never come close to being an option. He won 4-4 last year, including a 5½-length reversal of fortunes with Jonbon in the Arkle, the middle leg of a Grade 1 treble at the Dublin Racing Festival, Cheltenham and Punchestown.

He won the Hilly Way at Cork on his comeback in December – often a race targeted for Mullins' top two-mile chaser – and was very impressive at Leopardstown in February when dishing out an 8½-length defeat to Dinoblue – his stablemate and a talented mare in her own right.

With Energumene confined to barracks, it appears as though only an accident in the Cotswolds will prevent El Fabiolo from filling in and becoming the Champion Chaser. The odds of 2/5 reflect the chances, but definitely one for your multiple bets across the week. 

Henry de Bromhead has won the Queen Mother Champion Chase on three previous occasions.
Henry de Bromhead has won the Queen Mother Champion Chase on three previous occasions.

De Bromhead mare Maskada might have a squeak

Alternatives to the jolly are not leaping off the page with a total of 14 entries remaining at the time of writing. That number could dwindle significantly before post-time on Wednesday, March 13. 

Jonbon blotted his copybook in the Clarence House at Cheltenham in January and, in doing so, gave himself a very hard race. In any case, he is 10/3 second-favourite with LiveScore Bet and there is no reason to believe he will reverse the Arkle form with El Fabiolo.

Dinoblue features next in the betting but is much more likely to run in the Mares' Chase on the Friday while the likes of Edwardstone and Captain Guinness are very exposed now.

Interestingly, Henry de Bromhead, who has won this race with Sizing Europe, Special Tiara and Put The Kettle On, has left his mare MASKADA in the race and she is not entered in the Mares' contest.

She won the Grand Annual at this Festival last season, giving weight and a beating to Dinoblue. 

She was third behind El Fabiolo at Cork in December and, while unlikely to turn that around, if the ground at Cheltenham comes up soft – as it was for her win last season – there are worse notions than backing her to be in the first three at a big price in what could end up being a five or six-runner race on the day.

LiveScore logo

LiveScore: Live Sport Updates

Footbal Scores & Sports News

App storeGoogle play