The initial list of entries for the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival have been made and the 19 names are headed by 2011 winner, Sizing Europe. The Henry de Bromhead horse was far too good for the field at the Festival last season and he will go into this season's renewal as the warm favourite to repeat the trick. Connections have toyed with the idea of sending Sizing Europe over three miles but after some mixed results he will return to the two mile distance with the Champion Chase once again his main aim. This comes after he cruised to an impressive eight length win in the Tingle Creek Chase last month and he has to be the one to beat on that form as he head towards Cheltenham. His closest challenger could come in the form of 2010 winner, Big Zeb, who despite his advancing years has shown himself to be in good form again this season and could run another big race at the Festival.
Outside of the established duo of Sizing Europe and Big Zeb there are one or two new Champion chase horses this season who have to be given serious consideration. One of those is Finians Rainbow who was the runner-up in the Arkle last season and won his first start this season in the Desert Orchid Chase last month. The Nicky Henderson horse is clearly full of class and having been entered in the Queen Mother Champion Chase has to be given serious respect as the latest show of betting shows. Arkle horses have a good record in the Champion Chase, as Sizing Europe has shown over the past couple of years, so Finians Rainbow looks the biggest threat to the more established horses at this level. The Queen Mother is always one of the betting highlights of Cheltenham each season and that is looking likely to be the case once again in 2012 with a top class list of entries declared at this early stage.