Cheltenham Queen Mother Champion Chase 2023 predictions: Energumene still the one to beat
- This year's Cheltenham Festival takes place from March 14-17
- The feature race on the second day is the Queen Mother Champion Chase
- Recommended bets:
- Energumene @ 15/8
- Funambule Sivola @ 25/1 to win and each-way
What had once looked a foregone conclusion for reigning champion Energumene is now anything but, as the Queen Mother Champion Chase looks a wide open renewal.
Willie Mullins' star two-miler had his wings clipped in the Clarence House in January and now faces a big challenge to maintain his grip on this race.
Energumene can bounce back
The Clarence House saw Editeur Du Gite and Edwardstone finish clear of ENERGUMENE but the Irish horse may turn things around back at Cheltenham on March 15.
He was the 4/9 market leader for that Clarence House task but, in truth, it was never a smooth race for him.
He was held up, not often his style, and that appeared to undermine his normally fluent jumping, with him never looking to be in the rhythm expected from him.
Whether it made a difference or not, it is worth recalling that the race was held over by seven days from Ascot before being run at Cheltenham on Trials Day.
Mullins' preparation for a Grade 1 assignment like that would be of the 'to the minute' variety and it could have been a contributing factor.
Regardless, he looked beaten before a sloppy jump at the last condemned him to third.
It will be a shock if Paul Townend isn't more aggressive on Energumene come the Champion Chase as such tactics have yielded his best performances and they also contribute heavily in terms of taking his rivals outside of their own comfort zones.
If he's back at concert pitch in Cheltenham, Energumene is still the one to beat at 15/8 with LiveScore Bet.
Edwardstone a key player
The Clarence House was a splendid effort from Editeur Du Gite and Gary Moore's charge deserves credit having made the running. He looked sure to be picked off by Edwardstone but he rallied and got the win.
Winner of the Arkle last spring, Edwardstone will benefit if the pace is strong and he can play his cards late.
He looks, on paper, the strongest and most credible threat to even an on-song Energumene in that regard - as the betting shows with Alan King's charge trading at 7/4 with LiveScore Bet.
Gentleman De Mee re-established himself as a contender of note recently at the Dublin Racing Festival, as stablemate Blue Lord took a giant step backwards in the same race.
They are nearest pursuers of the big three, in the market at least.
Still some Fun to be had
FUNAMBULE SIVOLA was second behind Energumene in this race last spring and could be some value to reach the frame again after he once more completed his prep by winning the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury for the second year running.
He's seen the back of Editeur Du Gite twice this season and was last of six in the Tingle Creek as Edwardstone scored at Sandown in December.
He was a big price in the Clarence House and never looked a danger to the principals but he has improved significantly on that since at Newbury.
With three places to shoot for in the ante-post market and a danger the Champion Chase could cut up, Venetia Willams' charge might be one to have onside at 25/1 with LiveScore Bet.
Racing Post selection: Energumene
Each-way contender: Funambule Sivola