CHAMPION Chase winners Finians Rainbow and Sizing Europe have yet to convince they are as effective over this longer trip, while Sir Des Champs and First Lieutenant seem much more likely to go for the Gold Cup. Sizing Europe has won his last five races on the trot since finishing second by under 2 lengths at last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase. These wins have included three Grade 2s and two Grade 1s, and while the fields he has competed in have been small, he’s achieved some big wins, taking a 20 length win in the Clonmel Oil Chase and a 10 length win in the Tied Cottage Chase last time out. First Lieutenant has not won as many races in his 11-race chase career, having last tasted victory in November 2011 – some nine outings ago. While his latest head second to Tidal Bay in the Lexus Chase was a grand effort, his poor win ratio may put some punters off.
Cue Card has the alternative engagement of the Queen Mother Champion Chase but will only take up that option should a late hitch stop Sprinter Sacre from running. This news had been expected with Cue Card having finished behind Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham in each of the last two seasons, fourth when Nicky Henderson’s horse was third in the 2011 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and runner-up to him in last year’s Arkle Challenge Trophy.
Champion Court ran a brave race in the King George but clearly failed to stay the three miles. He ran disappointingly when only second to Alasi recently and Menorah also needs to improve markedly to figure here.
Riverside Theatre and Albertas Run, last year’s one-two, probably face a tougher test against an above-average crop of second-season chasers. The latter, a dual winner of this race previously, has yet to reappear this season and it’s asking a lot for him to regain his crown at the age of 12, while Riverside Theatre has bombed out on both subsequent starts and may not be the same horse after his devilishly tough race.
Menorah was beaten at Exeter 34 lengths by Cue Card. He then jumped well when winning the Peterborough Chase (at Kempton), handing out a 3 and a half length beating to Hunt Ball in the process. Last time out he was stepped up in trip for the Denman Chase over 3 miles at Newbury.