Master Minded Drifts For Champion Chase After Failing To Impress.


Tagged under: 3.20 Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase 2m

Dual winner Master Minded and last years victor Big Zeb are vying for Queen Mother Champion Chase favouritism after the former failed to impress, when only scraping home by a fast diminishing short head in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot.

The Paul Nicholls trained eight-year-old looked set for a comfortable victory when going clear turning for home, but Henrietta Knight's Arkle runner-up, Somersby, almost snatched victory when his stamina came into play after jumping the last.

Bookmaker reaction was to push the winner out to a general 5/2 for win number three in March, while last years winner Big Zeb was shortened to a best price 3/1, although Colm Murphy's charge is the new favourite with Coral at 2/1.

Somersby can be backed at 11/1 with Victor Chandler and Stan James, although Knight is favouring the 5f further Ryanair for which the gelding is a stand-out 6/1 with Skybet, unless the ground comes up soft for the Festival, in which case the Champion Chase would be seriously considered.

After today's race Nicholls was far from downbeat, saying: " I'm relieved. I was disappointed initially because turning in I thought he was going to go away and win quite nice and then I was thinking something obviously isn't quite right ( regarding the current form of the stable ).

Jockey Tony McCoy was inclined to blame himself for the proximity of the runner-up saying: " He did well to win, they went a real good gallop early on and at Swinley Bottom he came back on the bridle and I let him run when I shouldn't have done - I should have sat and let him fill up more."

While there is every chance that we will see a more polished performance from Master Minded on better ground come March, it is debatable whether he will ever recover the form he showed when at his peak, but nevertheless, the 2011 Queen Mother Champion Chase is developing into a potentially fascinating affair.

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