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Sir Valentino Offers Each Way Value In Champion Chase Market Dominated By Douvan

Tuesday 24th January 2017

Twelve wins out of twelve have catapulted Douvan into equine royalty, and the unbeaten Willie Mullins-trained superstar will bid for a third Cheltenham Festival crown on March 15 when he is sent off a red-hot favourite for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, but can anything challenge the sensational seven-year-old in this year's renewal?

Douvan Set To Demolish Rivals In Champion Chase

Prominent, asserted, easily, impressive.  Just four words that have become customary for a description of Douvan's victories to date, and who can question that the post-race comments will read any differently in the aftermath of the Queen Mother Champion Chase on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The seven-year-old has fast-become the equine blockbuster for National Hunt aficionados, as he has trounced his rivals with aplomb in Graded company for the last few years, and more of the same is expected from the son of Walk In The Park in the Champion Chase, and the bookmakers are certainly running scared of the Co. Carlow phenomenon, as he is currently a best-priced 2/5 with Coral Bookmakers to land a third festival win in a row.

An exquisite seven-length winner of the Arkle Challenge Trophy last year, Douvan then went on to bag top-class victories at Aintree's Grand National meeting and the Punchestown Festival, and has kicked off the new campaign in similar fashion with a brace of wins in Ireland.

A facile 22-length winner on his comeback run in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork on December 11, he then followed that up a couple of weeks later with an eight-length annihilation of Sizing John (25/1) in the Paddy Power Cashcard Chase at Leopardstown, and with that raider going on to beat a decent field in the Kinloch Brae Chase earlier this week then the form has certainly been franked.

So, while punters may try their best to find an alternative to the red-hot jolly in the ante-post market, it's hard to not see Douvan producing another foot-perfect round at Prestbury Park in March, and on the day he could be an extremely skinny price, with most trainers opting to send their horses to the Ryanair Chase instead of tackling this two-mile Championship event.

However, our Cheltenham Festival Ante-Post Portfolio is not here to tip up certainties at short odds, and you'd be mad to snap up the skinny odds with more than six weeks to go to the big day, as anything could happen with his preparations, so while Douvan will likely add another easy win to his illustrious CV, it's not a punting price, so it is worth looking for a value play elsewhere.

Progressive Fox Norton The Premier Rival

Colin Tizzard's Cheltenham team will ooze strength this year, with Thistlecrack spearheading the West Country handler's squad, but Fox Norton was a huge addition to his stable earlier in the year, after moving from Neil Mulholland's yard, and the exciting seven-year-old is currently the 8/1 second favourite with Betfair Sportsbook.

A ten-length third to Douvan in last season's Arkle, Fox Norton was heavily backed on his first run of the season in handicap company at Cheltenham, and he didn't disappoint as he romped 11 lengths clear, but it was nine-length defeat of Simply Ned (66/1) in the Shloer Chase over course and distance in November that had people talking him about him being a Champion Chase contender.

Yet, he picked up a niggling injury following that race and hasn't been seen since, so Tizzard will have his work cut out to get him back to his best come March, and with memories of his defeat to Douvan in last year's Arkle then it's hard to see him being good enough to down his Emerald Isle adversary.

Small Field Expected To Line Up

As mentioned earlier, Douvan's invincibility could see very few runners take their chance in the Champion Chase, with some likely rivals being upped in trip for the Ryanair Chase the following day, so beyond the front two in the betting you need to utilise bookmakers that are offering Non Runner No Bet.

Un De Sceaux was toppled by Sprinter Sacre last season in a memorable Champion Chase, and while he is set to line-up in the rescheduled Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham's Festival Trials Day on Saturday, the 14/1 shot with Betfair Sportsbook could well head down the Ryanair route to avoid a clash with his stablemate.

Nicky Henderson's Altior is available at 8/1 with Coral, but last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle hero is set to stay down the novice road and take his chance against Min in the Arkle, so he is certainly one to scratch off your list, while Ar Mad's will to go right-handed could see him bypass the festival, and at 25/1 with Betfair Sportsbook is another to avoid.

God's Own has a fine record at Cheltenham having finished second in the 2015 Arkle and fourth in the 2016 Champion Chase, but Tom George's raider will need a dry spell in the lead-up to the race, and at 20/1 with most firms can be ignored until conditions are known closer to the date.

Valentino The Value Play Amongst Huge Priced Runners

With a small field expected then at this stage it's worth trying to find a guaranteed runner and while former champions Sire De Grugy (33/1) and Dodging Bullets (50/1) may look to recapture their crown, they have struggled to produce their best this year, and along with the front-running Special Tiara (25/1), who will not be able to maintain the gallop against Douvan, they are a trio that are worth ignoring at big prices.

However, one interesting contender is SIR VALENTINO, who could be the second shot fired by the Tom George gun, and at 40/1 with Paddy Power is worth an each-way play, as his trainer has already pencilled the Champion Chase as his next run.

The eight-year-old has blossomed over fences over the last couple of years, and kicked off his season with a fine win in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter in November.  He struggled when well beaten by Un De Sceaux in the Tingle Creek, but seemed to improve when second to Special Tiara in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park over the Christmas period.

The Champion Chase will be another huge step up in class, but with stamina no issue then it would be no surprise to see him pick up the pieces from those rivals that aim to take Douvan on, and while the 40/1 for him in the each-way market is worth a speculative bet, it's the 18/1 on offer with Betfair Sportsbook for him in the market without Douvan that makes most appeal, and at this stage is worth a bet.

Selection - Sir Valentino (each-way) in betting w/o Douvan @ 18/1 with Betfair.com

*Price correct at time of writing

2017 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase Odds

Altior Nico de Boinville / N J Henderson 4/9
Footpad 7/1
Min R Walsh / W P Mullins 10/1
Un De Sceaux 14/1
Sceau Royal D A Jacob / A King 14/1
Politologue Harry Cobden / P F Nicholls 25/1
Simply Ned 25/1
Fox Norton 25/1
Saint Calvados G Sheehan / H Whittington 25/1
Petit Mouchoir 33/1
Ordinary World Rachael Blackmore / H de Bromhead 33/1
Diego Du Charmil 33/1
Lady Buttons 33/1
Castlegrace Paddy D N Russell / P A Fahy 33/1
Special Tiara 50/1
Gods Own P J Brennan / T R George 50/1
A Toi Phil 66/1
Forest Bihan 66/1
Ozzie The Oscar 66/1
Doctor Phoenix 66/1
Hells Kitchen B J Geraghty / H Fry 66/1
Each Way Terms 3

1. Altior Nico de Boinville / N J Henderson
3. Min R Walsh / W P Mullins
5. Sceau Royal D A Jacob / A King
6. Politologue Harry Cobden / P F Nicholls
9. Saint Calvados G Sheehan / H Whittington
11. Ordinary World Rachael Blackmore / H de Bromhead
14. Castlegrace Paddy D N Russell / P A Fahy
16. Gods Own P J Brennan / T R George
21. Hells Kitchen B J Geraghty / H Fry
Odds correct as of 11th Apr, 04:01 . Odds are subject to change.
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