Festive Eye-Catchers: Chacun Pour Soi looks the one to beat

Chacun Pour Soi impressed when landing Grade 1 honours at Leopardstown.
Chacun Pour Soi impressed when landing Grade 1 honours at Leopardstown.

Nick Seddon looks at the main stories of the festive period, and assesses how some of the big winners may fare at next year’s Cheltenham Festival…

Frodon - Paul Nicholls (King George VI Chase, Kempton)

Considering he's one of the most likeable horses in training, there can't be too many that begrudged Frodon his day in the sun at Kempton on Boxing Day, as he added to his glittering CV with victory in the King George VI Chase. It finally ended the theory that Frodon can't quite do it at the top level over three miles, though many will argue that he did that long before in the 2019 Cotswold Chase, and the victory saw the soon to be nine-year-old shortened into a hugely competitive price of 16/1 for next year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The three and a quarter miles of the Festival showpiece is a different kettle of fish stamina wise, and there still have to be questions about whether such a test would suit Frodon, considering that he was very much allowed to have the run of things at Kempton, on what is a pretty quick three miles. What we can be sure of though is that Frodon has earned his shot, and bearing in mind that the staying division looks particularly open at the moment, stranger things have happened. 

Meanwhile, it also looks worth highlighting the efforts of Waiting Patiently, who returned from a 385-day absence to finish a gallant second. He closed on Frodon all the way to the line, and it could be argued that he could have gotten even closer than the two and a quarter length margin of victory if handed a more attacking ride, though it's difficult to be too hard on the tactics considering that this was just his second try over the trip. It seems likely that he will return to two and a half miles after this, which looks his strongest distance, and a rematch with Cyrname in the Ascot Chase would be a mouth-watering prospect. Looking further ahead, he'd certainly be a contender for the Ryanair Chase, though it's worth noting that he hasn't stood too much racing over the past couple of seasons, and any ante-post bets should be placed with caution. 

Cheltenham Festival Tips

Chacun Pour Soi - Willie Mullins (Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase, Leopardstown)

It's felt like a long time in the making, but after an injury-plagued campaign last season, Chacun Pour Soi is finally living up to his potential. He looked as though he'd be a serious threat to Altior in 2019/20 when winning the 2019 Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown, though neither managed to have a clear run of things fitness wise, and it now looks as though Chacun Pour Soi will be the leading light of the division when they do eventually lock horns in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The Paddy's Rewards Club Chase hasn't always delivered in terms of providing Cheltenham Festival clues, though this year's form looks strong, and Chacun Pour Soi deserves plenty of credit for the way he comfortably dispatched of two smart rivals in Notebook and Put The Kettle On - both of whom were Grade 1-winning novices last season.

This division regularly has something of a bare look to it, and on form you would certainly think that Chacun Pour Soi has the beating of the market principals, which include last year's Champion Chase winner Politologue (6/1), the shock Desert Orchid Chase winner Nube Negra (12/1) and Defi Du Seuil (22/1) - while both Notebook and Put The Kettle On are 14/1 chances. An on-song Altior would certainly give him plenty to think about, but he's rising 11 now, and the way he stayed on to the line at Kempton on Sunday suggests that two miles could be on the sharp side for him these days. Willie Mullins certainly won't be counting his chickens, but he may have finally found an antidote to a rival in Altior who has thwarted him on so many occasions over the years. 

Cheltenham Festival Races

A Plus Tard - Henry de Bromhead (Savills Chase, Leopardstown)

The highlight of the festive period was a blockbuster renewal of the Savills Chase, which certainly didn't disappoint as a spectacle. The 14-strong field featured no less than six winners at the top level over fences, and the drama began at an early stage, with the departures of the favourite Minella Indo at the eighth fence and last year's winner Delta Work at the ninth.

Both Presenting Percy and Samcro disappointed in attritional conditions, and it was left to two stablemates in Melon and Kemboy to fight it out in the closing stages. It looked as though Kemboy would collect a second victory in three years when getting on top of Melon - who ran remarkably well on his first try at this trip over fences - late on, though both were dramatically gathered in by A Plus Tard, another who had plenty to prove coming into this in regards to his stamina.  

A Plus Tard is a classy type, you only have to look at his defeat of Chacun Pour Soi at this meeting 12 months ago to attest to that, and he now finds himself as a 10/1 third favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, behind the dual winner Al Boum Photo (9/2) and Minella Indo (7/1). Henry de Bromhead's charge certainly has to be considered as a serious contender on the back of this, particularly when you note that he still has plenty of time on his side as a soon to be seven-year-old, and his next start should tell us more. It's likely that will come back at Leopardstown in the Irish Gold Cup in February, when a host of this field will undoubtedly reoppose, and a win there would likely see A Plus Tard challenging for favouritism at the Festival. 

The Cheltenham Festival
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