This season has been dominated by talk of the Willie Mullins juggernaut steam rolling over everyone at the big spring Festivals but this weekend sees the return of one horse who might just be able to put up a fight for the home team in March. Dodging Bullets makes his first start of the season at Newbury on Saturday in the Game Spirit Chase and connections will be hoping he can return to his best form as soon as possible.
The Paul Nicholls trained chaser swept all before him last season as he won the Tingle Creek, the Clarence House Chase and the Queen Mother Champion Chase to confirm himself as the best 2m Chaser in the sport and in truth he won those races with more than something in hand on each occasion.
Nicholls has been very patient with him since then thanks to an early season set-back but connections are reporting him to be rude health ahead of his run at Newbury and maybe, just maybe, we are in danger of over looking his chances of defending his Champion Chase crown next month.
Un De Sceaux is certainly the one to beat in the Champion Chase as long as he stands up but Dodging Bullets is much more solid in that regard with no falls during his career and he could be capable of mopping up any mistake from the jolly. Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy have been much better this season but while Dodging Bullets perhaps wouldn't have the class of those two at their best, he is still only eight and a good run at Newbury this weekend is likely to see plenty back him for a big run at Cheltenham.
This run at Newbury is a big one for Dodging Bullets and his fans as he takes on a field he should be beating despite the fact this will be his first start in eleven months. He will of course come on for the run ahead of Cheltenham and a little bit of decent ground will do his chances of a second Champion Chase crown no harm at all despite the fact it looks like a tougher ask than last year.
Master Minded was the last horse to win back-to-back Champion Chases back in 2008 and 2009 which highlights the task facing Dodging Bullets this season but if he does arrive at the Festival off of the back of a Game Spirit win, he will add another fascinating angle to a race already with great potential.