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Cheltenham Festival News: Energumene Concern After Champion Chase Drift

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ENERGUMENE

With less than two weeks to go before the tapes go up on the Cheltenham Festival we are entering that ‘rumour mill’ stage as connections hope to get their main hopes there in one piece.

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In recent, years there have been many tittle-tattle stories as to the wellbeing of Cheltenham Festival bankers and fancies – resulting in big drifts on the Betting Exchanges.

The latest to join that club is the Willie Mullins-trained ENERGUMENE, who took a big walk on Thursday night in the Champion Chase market on Betfair – drifting out to 21/1!

Energumene Drifted Out To 21/1 On Betfair

Generally there is ‘no smoke without fire’, when it comes to these pre Cheltenham rumours, and clearly something sparked the massive drift on Thursday night. The classy 8 year-old had been around the 5/2 mark at the start of the week, but the keen Cheltenham Festival ante-post watchers would have noticed he had been slipping out all week and was around 9/2 before Thursday bigger slide on the exchanges.

Since then, Energumene has since come back in on the betting exchanges to trade around the 6.00 mark – but you still feel something is not quite right!

Mullins Reports Energumene Fine

However, his trainer Willie Mullins has since tried to put the flames out by quickly stating the horse is fine and that his former stable jockey – Ruby Walsh – rode the horse on Thursday and reported no issues. However, there are suggestions of a stone bruise earlier in the week and this was confirmed by Sean Graham, who is racing manager to his owner – Tony Bloom.


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Champion Chase Betting Has Settled Back Down

With that news, the betting for the Champion Chase, which will be run on Wednesday 16th March, has settled down a bit. But Energumene, who many believed could reverse the form with Shishkin after their epic Clarence House battle in January, is still on offer @9/2 with bet365 and William Hill on Friday.

That price is still significantly bigger than he was a week ago (around 5/2), with most bookmakers now making the other Willie Mullins runner – Chacun Pour Soi @10/3 with bet365, who was third in the race 12 months ago, their second favourite behind the rock-solid Shishkin @4/7 with bet365.

Note: Odds are subject to change

Willie Mullins Is Still To Win The Queen Mother Champion Chase

Yes, surprisingly, Willie Mullins, who has trained an incredible 78 Cheltenham Festival winners, is still hunting for his first success in the Champion Chase. He’s come close several times, including with Chacun Pour Soi (3rd) 12 months ago, but with Gold Cups, Stayers Hurdles and many Champion Hurdles to this name – this has been the main Cheltenham race that has so far eluded the top Irish handler.

Other Champion Chase Contenders

Much of the focus has been on Shishkin, Energumene and Chacun Por Soi, but it would be foolish to ignore the current champ – Put The Kettle On – plus last year’s runner -up Nube Negra.

Put The Kettle On has lost her way a bit this season and is yet to win a race since taking the Champion Chase last season (3 runs). But this popular mare does have a fantastic record at Cheltenham (4 wins) and being a mare, she’ll get the handy 7lbs allowance again here – she’s on offer @20/1 with bet365.

Nube Nega was only beaten ½ a length in this race last season and has since returned this term to win the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham. He’s since flopped in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown (4th) but is another that’s building up better form here at Prestbury Park and so returning here is a plus. He’ll certainly have his supporters @10/1 with bet365.

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Key Champion Chase Betting Trends

Pluses….

  • 13 of the last 21 winners ran in the Tingle Creek Chase that season
  • 4 of the last 9 winners won the Clarence House Chase (Ascot) that season
  • 24 of the last 37 had won at the Festival before
  • Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson have won 9 of the last 14 between them
  • Nicky Henderson has won 5 of the last 10
  • 27 of the last 35 winners aged between 7-9
  • 14 of the last 20 winners won last time out
  • 16 of the last 19 winners had run that calendar year
  • 38 of the last 40 winners returned 10/1 or shorter
  • 15 of the last 22 winners returned 5/1 or shorter
  • 7 of the last 15 winners were French-bred
  • 11 of the last 19 winners were second season chasers
  • 15 of the last 17 winners had run 2 or 3 times that season
  • 19 of the last 23 winners came from the top 3 in the betting
  • 16 of the last 22 winners ran in the previous season’s Arkle or Champion Chase
  • 7 of the last 11 Arkle winners (previous season) to run have won
  • Past champions do well – 13 horses have won the CC more than once

Negatives….

  • Only two winners priced 11/1 or bigger in the last 38 years
  • Just 1 winner in last 17 had run 4+ times that season
  • Horses that didn’t run in that calendar year are 3-from-31
  • Top Irish trainer, Willie Mullins, is yet to win this race (0-from-12)
  • Just 1 of the last 20 winners hadn’t won a Grade 1 Chase before
  • 12 of the last 16 winners had run in no more than 16 chases
  • Be wary of horses older than 10 – just 2 winners since 1977
  • Only 3 winners aged 6 or younger in the last 47 years
  • Just one 11 year-old winner in the last 43 years
  • Just one Mare has ever won the race (Put The Kettle On, 2021)

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