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Cheltenham 2011 - Champion Chase Preview


Masterminded

Two time winner of the race, a classy performer. His jumping is what stands out in my mind. Not an extravagant jumper, he really ‘pops’ his fences, seemingly so easily and in his stride. It is a beauty to behold when he is on form.

Whether or not he is the same horse he once was, is open to debate, and the true answer will probably finally be known come mid march. The oceans of ability possessed by the horse will come to the test and his attitude will be questioned to the highest degree.

A third win in the race would surely bring the roof down at Cheltenham come March 16th.


Big Zeb

Last year’s champion will be back to try and defend his title! He finally fulfilled huge potential when winning the big one last year. He threatened to overturn (at the time the ‘unbeatable’) Masterminded in April ’09 but a couple of horrible jumping errors meant he failed to do so by a head. Yet he did the job 11 months later at Cheltenham.

His ‘dodgy’ jumping seems almost a thing of the past now and even his last time out reversal with Golden Silver (himself an excellent horse) fails to dampen enthusiasm that ‘Zeb’ can retain his title.


Golden Silver

A super horse in his own right, but has been the ‘bridesmaid’ to Big Zeb on numerous occasions. He finally got one over on his old rival last time but it would be unlikely he would get the better of Big Zeb at the festival. This is more down to the fact that both GS’s runs at Cheltenham have been shockers to say the least - beaten 75 lengths combined in his two attempts.


Somersby

Amazingly only once of out the first 3 (and that in a maiden hurdle) in his 13 career starts, Somersby is an admirably consistent performer. So far though, he has just fallen short of the top level.

The closest he has come to winning a grade one was last time out when agonisingly failing by a short-head to catch a tiring Masterminded at Ascot. The bare form there would give him every chance at Cheltenham and there have been nothing wrong with his three runs at the track (two thirds and a second, all in grade 1’s).

The horse may instead be aimed at the Ryan Air, but could this year be the year when the apple of Henrietta Knight’s eye finally hits the big time?


Woolcombe Folly

The ‘young pretender’ to the crown. Although no younger than his stable mate and market leader Masterminded, Woolcombe folly is the more inexperienced, lightly raced contender having spent a lot of time hurdling. An impressive tally of 9wins from 15 starts underlines the talent possessed by the horse.

Whether he is up to the task of this championship race, we cannot be sure, but the time he clocked with his last win (quicker than Masterminded's over the same C&D on the same day) would seem to show him having every chance.

This an early preview and there is a possibility that things could change drastically between now and then. Other horses that I have not commented on will line up in the race, and who knows, may win! However one thing is for sure, it promises to be a truly spectacular race!!

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