Betting Tips and Previews: Cheltenham Festival

Shishkin & Energumene Renew Rivalry in Star Studded Champion Chase

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Shishkin & Energumene Renew Rivalry in Star Studded Champion Chase



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It is the race of the week.

Whereas the Gold Cup produces the ultimate tough guy of the staying chases, The Champion Chase on Day 2 of The Cheltenham Festival is the true Olympic final of the chasing division where speed, precision and stamina are all needed in abundance.

Despite the enigmatic Shishkin leading the betting with a questionable 4/6 (William Hill, Bet Victor, Betfred, Boylesports) price tag, this is a vintage renewal of the 2-mile chase championship.

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Along with his old friend Energumene, the Nicky Henderson trained market leader is joined by the classy but under achieving (by Cheltenham Festival standards) Chacun Pour Soi, the progressive Nube Negra, and forgotten novice superstar Envoi Allen.

Still not satisfied?

Then add two previous champions Put The Kettle On and Politologue for good measure. We check out the chances of all mentioned with odds and best bets provided by our partner firms. Hold on to your seats, this is going to be some ride.

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SHISHKIN: SHADES OF ALTIOR, POTENTIAL OF SPRINTER?

What impressed most people about Shishkin’s astonishing win over Energumene in the Ascot Clarence House Chase last time out was that he ran an awful race.

Shishkin did not travel great, practically made acquaintances with the turf at the sixth and slightly off the bridle at the home turn. Energumene did not put a foot wrong and still lost to Shishkin in the dying strides.

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Any student of the form book will tell you that the 4/6 on offer for Shishkin is a fair price: no horse should be entitled to get anywhere near Shishkin after that run at Ascot.

I am not sure if he has quite mastered the imperious swagger of previous stable mate Sprinter Sacre but he is certainly matching the dogged determination of Altior.

This is Shishkin’s to lose and if he is within a length of anybody at the last, he should win comfortably.

But anybody holding onto a Shishkin betting slip will be a bag of nerves: any mistakes like the one he made at Ascot will not suffice at Cheltenham. It's a full field, none of Shishkin's rivals have suffered any setbacks. They are all going to turn up. And they are all particularly useful on a good day.

ENERGUMENE

There is a school of thought that Energumene might get things more his way over the Cheltenham Champion Chase trip. The Champion Chase distance at Cheltenham is a furlong shorter than the Ascot Clarence House trip. Therefore, one would think that the chances of Shishkin reining in Energumene in the fashion that he did at Ascot are reduced.

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However, this only happened due to Shishkin’s major error at the sixth. If Shishkin puts in a clear round, the Henderson charge will be right up with the pace and judging by his majestic turn of pace in last year’s Arkle, this should be put to bed.

I think the only way Energumene can put pressure on Shishkin is to get a significant run on him, make the opposing horse think and possibly force an error.

7/2 best with William Hill and Bet Victor.

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CHACUN POUR SOI

It is without doubt that out of all Willie Mullins’ entries during the Cheltenham Festival week, if he could choose a winner, Chacun Pour Soi in the Champion Chase would be the one.

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But the 10-year-old is not getting any younger and he does not like playing away fixtures based on his somewhat flat run in last year’s renewal and his total capitulation in the Sandown Tingle Creek chase.

Probably suited to flatter tracks and possibly labelled under that tag overrated. But if he runs to his best and the two market leaders make errors, he is in with a squeak. 9/2 with Bet365, William Hill, Boylesports.

THE REST

NUBE NEGRA

Two runs this season so far for the Dan Skelton trained Cheltenham specialist. Definitely in the mix on the back form based on his ½ length second to Put The Kettle On in last year’s weaker Champion Chase.

Beat Greaneteen comprehensively over course and distance last autumn and that horse went on to with The Tingle Creek.

Huge each way credentials at 10/1 with Bet365 with NRNB and Best Odds Guaranteed.

PUT THE KETTLE ON

The reigning champion has not fired at all this season but similar to Nube Negra, the mare is an entirely different proposition at Cheltenham over two miles.

Price wise, this has to be one of the best value each way Cheltenham bets of the week but she will need a dramatic improvement in form and maybe some errors from the big guns to figure.

20/1 with bet365, William Hill, Bet Victor, Betfred, Boylesports.

POLITOLOGUE

Paul Nicholls’ horses are coming into form and this old boy certainly knows his way round this course and distance but this would be a major shock if he’s a serious player this time round.

40/1 with Bet365 and William Hill.

VERDICT

Shishkin gets the vote but this is not a banker material race by any stretch of the imagination such is the quality of this field: one to watch and savour whilst sticking a few pennies each way on Put The Kettle On or Nube Negra.

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Please note all odds are correct at the time of publishing (9pm 12th March 2022) and are subject to change.

Matt is Howtobet4free's resident Horse Racing expert, writer, tipster and a huge Cheltenham Festival fan. He occasionally dabbles in Golf, Football and anything else you can gamble on!

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