sports gazette

8/1 Somersby big value in Champion Chase

Sizing Europe and Big Zeb go head to head again at Cheltenham. Photo by Horse Racing Ireland
Published: 10 Mar 2012

Henrietta Knight's horse is good value to run a big race in Wednesday's main event

This year’s Champion Chase is a little short in depth compared to last year, and so Sizing Europe has been made a warm favourite to retain his crown.

The general consensus of opinion from various preview nights around Britain and Ireland is that Henry De Bromhead’s gelding is the most likely winner by default given the lack of opposition – the race could have as little as six runners on the day.

However the current champion has earned his stripes this season. He has won three of his four starts, including a romp in the Tingle Creek and a 15-length victory against old foe Big Zeb. On that alone, he would be favourite for most renewals of this race.

His front-running style and athletic jumping suit Cheltenham and he will be completing a hatrick of wins at Prestbury Park should he oblige. He is certainly the most likely winner of the race.

Colm Murphy probably didn’t have Big Zeb at this peak in the Tied Cottage Chase against Sizing Europe last month but even at that, a 15-length beating in a race he was beaten half a length in the previous year doesn’t bode well. If you do rule that race out, Big Zeb still has five lengths to find with Sizing Europe on last season’s Champion Chase, the most important piece of form between the pair. A year older now, it’s going to be difficult for 2010 winner to turn the tables around.

A key trend with the Champion Chase is the form from the previous season’s Arkle. The form of the last five Arkle winners appearing in the Champion Chase in their second season reads 112121.

It is a surprise then that Captain Chris, last year’s Arkle winner, wasn’t considered for this, but we do have the runner-up with Nicky Henderson’s Finian’s Rainbow lining up.

The nine-year-old son of Tiraaz has always been held in high regard at Seven Barrows, and there was a lot to like about the way he overcame a shocking mistake on his seasonal debut to down Wishful Thinking. However that form doesn’t inspire much given how Philip Hobbs’s horse has performed this year and I can’t see how Finian’s Rainbow can be shorter than Somersby, given that Henrietta Knight’s horse beat him fair and square in the Victor Chandler Chase.

Somersby was fifth in this race last season and that may be the reason he is an 8/1 shot here. But you can’t judge a horse on one performance and he may be underestimated as a result. The son of Second Empire has been campaigned over various distances but gained his elusive Grade One victory back at two miles in the Victor Chandler Chase on his most recent start.

That he has form over longer distances bodes well for this race as all ten previous winners have won at a distance of or over two miles and two furlongs. And a key piece of form is his close second to Sizing Europe in the Arkle two years ago where he was closing all the way up to the line, just failing by three parts of a length in the end. At 8/1 he represents good value to give the favourite a run for his money, and I expect him to be staying on up the hill again when others are tiring.

Of course he might go for the Ryanair, it’s still up in the air, but with non runner no bet offered by the majority of bookmakers at this stage, we can evade any possible swings of misfortune.

It’s difficult to make a case for anything else. Kauto Stone looked out of his depth in the Tingle Creek, while Realt Dubh hasn’t appeared all season. Wishful Thinking has disappointed this year but if he could put up a similar performance to what he did at Punchestown last season he would be in with a chance.

Somersby, each-way 8/1 generally available non runner no bet.

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