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The feature race, as usual, on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival, is the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the premier event of the season for the best 2-mile chasers, and the culmination of a hard, challenging season for connections. It is a 2-mile chase open to horses aged five years or older, and it is run over Cheltenham’s Old Course, with 12 fences standing in the way of the competitors and the winning post. All horses must carry 11st 10lbs, with the exception of mares, which carry 11st 3lbs. The race has been known as the Queen Mother Champion Chase since 1980, the year of the Queen Mother’s birthday. The Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth was known as an avid follower of horse racing, so it was seen as a fitting tribute that one of horse racing’s top races was named after her. Prior to this, it was simply known as the National Hunt Two-Mile Champion Chase – a name that does exactly what it says on the tin!
The Queen Mother Champion Chase has seen many of National Hunt racing’s greatest chasers compete for the honour of champion two-mile chaser, with Fortria winning it back-to-back in 1960 and 1961. Then the almost peerless Flyingbolt took the crown in 1966 on his way to an Irish Grand National. Crisp’s only major win came in this race, before his epic encounter with Red Rum in the 1973 Grand National, only two years later. Badsworth Boy went down in history, becoming the first horse to win the Champion Chase three times, every time a comfortable winner due to his great jumping speed. Other greats to have won include Viking Flagship (1994 and 1995), One Man (1998), Edredon Bleu (2000), Flagship Uberalles (2002), the fantastic Master Minded (2008 and 2009), and Sprinter Sacre (2013).
However, it was a three-year period from 2003 to 2005 that will perhaps go down in history as the greatest period in the Queen Mother Champion Chase’s history. In 2003, Moscow Flyer won his first Queen Mother Champion Chase, beating 10 other competitors. And then in 2004, with Moscow Flyer seemingly on for a second title, he blundered four fences from home and unseated Barry Geraghty, handing the advantage to Azertyuiop, which would ignite the great rivalry between these two, which came to a head in the 2005 running of the race. Add in the great Well Chief to this race and it’s safe to say that the 2005 Queen Mother Champion Chase was perhaps the most anticipated race for years. Moscow Flyer went on to win by two lengths from Well Chief, with Azertyuiop third after having a bad incident at the water jump. This would mark Moscow Flyer’s last win, with his performance in the 2006 Champion Chase best left unremembered. But that period was truly a great time for 2 mile chasing.
To win the Queen Mother Champion Chase, you need to be able to jump well at speed. It is not a race for stayers, or methodical jumpers. It requires a real champion mindset to win, and winners tend to be on the younger side of 10 years old. They should have shown their class previously as Grade 1 level, as this tends not to be a race that has an upset – favourites have a decent record in the race. So a classy, reasonably young horse with a winning record at the top level is always going to give you a run for your money in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. However, it’s worth noting that it has been hard in recent years for a horse to win back-to-back runnings of the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Master Minded managed to do it in 2008 and 2009, but it was Viking Flagship before him in 1994 and 1995 that last completed the feat.
Had a run in the same calendar year as the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Previous winner at Grade 1 level.
Nine years old or younger.
Towards the head of the betting.
Less than five runs in a season.