Officially titled “Style Wednesday” fashion is to the fore on Day Two of the magnificent Cheltenham Festival, inspiring all manner of fabulous frocks and millenary masterpieces in the stands. Spectacular as the crowd may be, punters will still find it hard to take their eyes away from the track as the Prestbury Park venue lays on another seven-race menu of mouthwatering action.
Topping the bill is the premier event of the season for the most talented two-mile chasers in the game, as a star-studded field tackles 13 fences around the Old Course for the Queen Mother Champion Chase. A place in the history books and a healthy chunk of the £400,000 (2023) in total prize money on offer awaits the winner.
First run in 1959 as the National Hunt Two-Mile Champion Chase, the race was renamed in honour of the Queen Mother’s 80th Birthday in 1980. Whatever the title, the race never fails to attract a stellar cast of talent, as evidenced by a glance through the roll of honour. Fortria, Badsworth Boy, Moscow Flyer, Sprinter Sacre, and Altior are all legends of the two-mile chasing game, and all rubberstamped their brilliance with one or more victories in this event.
Scene of a selection of the Festival’s most spine-tingling moments in the current century (who can forget Sprinter Sacre’s back-from-the-brink second win in 2016?), the race is one of the standout betting heats of the Festival. But what should we look for when attempting to identify the likely winner? Here, we look back at the 23 results between 2000 and 2023 (there was no race in 2001 due to foot and mouth) to unearth a few useful trends and stats.
Queen Mother Champion Chase: Age Trends
The Day Two feature is open to chasers aged five and older but is rarely won by one so young. Only once, in fact, has that happened, with Master Minded entering the record books as the youngest winner in the history of the race in 2008. At the other end of the scale, Moscow Flyer became the joint second-oldest Champion Chase winner when landing the prize for a second time in 2005. The current century has witnessed a decent spread of winners, but those aged seven to nine have fared best, with 17 of 23 winners (73.91%) falling into the bracket.
Queen Mother Champion Chase: Trainer Stats
The home team held the edge in this contest between 2000 and 2023 with 15 wins compared to eight for the Irish raiders. Lambourn and Ditcheat titans Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls predictably led the charge. Henderson tops the pile in the 21st century, but the pair sit level on six wins apiece in the all-time list, together with 1960s trainer Tom Dreaper. One more win for Nicholls or Henderson will take them out on their own as the most successful trainer in the history of the race.
Despite his incredible overall record at the Festival, Willie Mullins was without a win in this before 2022. Energumene broke the Closutton duck that year and successfully defended his crown in 2023.
Queen Mother Champion Chase: Rating of Winner
Despite a few peaks and troughs, the overall trend line has remained very steady in the current century. 2006 champ Newmill is responsible for the lowest rating over this period, with top honours belonging to the sensational Master Minded in 2009. Moscow Flyer (2005) and Sprinter Sacre (2013), are the only others to have been rated north of 175 headed into the race. The average rating of the winner over this period is 168, with only six of the 23 winners rated below 165.
Queen Mother Champion Chase: Finishing Position Last Time Out
The 2000-2023 results suggest that we will increase our chances if we favour in-form challengers. 14 of the 23 winners (60.87%) arrived on the back of a win, whilst 20 of 23 (86.96%) had at least managed to finish in the first three on their most recent outing. No winner had finished outside the first five, barring 2007 champ Voy Por Ustedes, who was the only winner who failed to complete on their previous start.
Route to the Race
The top domestic two-mile chasers tend to follow a defined route through the season, taking in one or more of the Tingle Creek, Game Spirit, and Clarence House. Held at Ascot in January, the Clarence House provides ample recovery time before the big event, which probably contributes towards it being a more popular route than the Game Spirit at Newbury in February. The Tied Cottage Chase had been the key Irish trial, but a new event at the Dublin Racing Festival replaced this contest in 2018.
Queen Mother Champion Chase: Fate of the Favourite
The Queen Mother regularly features a short-priced favourite arriving on the crest of a wave. However, siding with the most obvious contender hasn’t provided a road to riches over this period. A strike rate of nine winning favourites from 23 editions (39.13%) is solid enough but still handed jolly backers a loss of £3.07 to £1 level stakes.
Overall, 17 of 23 winners returned an SP of 5/1 or below – Sprinter Sacre being the shortest of all at 1/4 in 2013. Only four winners returned a double-figure SP, with 16/1 shot Newmill providing the biggest shock when landing the prize for John Joseph Murphy in 2006.
Queen Mother Champion Chase: Other Stats
- The strongest trend in evidence is a proven ability in top company. 21 of 23 winners (91.30%) already had at least one Grade 1 success to their name.
- Most winners appeared at the track during the two months leading up to the Festival. 18 of 23 (78.26%) had run within the last 55 days. No winners arrived following a break of more than 95 days.
- Barry Geraghty registered a fifth win in the race when partnering Sprinter Sacre to victory in 2013 to draw level with Pat Taaffe as the all-time leading rider. However, that’s not much help to trends fans, as Geraghty is now retired. Nico de Boinville boasts the best record amongst current jockeys (as of 2024) with three wins. Still having time on his side, he may yet equal or surpass Geraghty and Taaffe.