Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 4 April 2020

Cheltenham Festival: Politologue powers to victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase

Heavy Favourtie Defi Du Seuil trails in disappointing fourth as trainer Nicholls hails horse who 'looked amazing all week' ahead of big race

Harry Skelton, right, celebrates after guiding Politologue to victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday. Getty
Harry Skelton, right, celebrates after guiding Politologue to victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday. Getty

Politologue led from the start to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase in superlative fashion on Wednesday.

With the late withdrawals of Altior and Chacun Pour Soi, it appeared Defi Du Seuil faced a relatively simple task given the way his stellar season had gone.

But while he was sent off the heavy favourite, Barry Geraghty was sending distress signals out a long way from home and he never looked like getting on terms.

Remarkably, the winner and stablemate Dynamite Dollars were the first runners of the meeting for Paul Nicholls and he filled the first two places in one of the biggest races of the week.

Harry Skelton – riding at the request of owner John Hales – was positive in front on the grey, making his fifth Festival appearance with his previous best coming when second to Altior in this 12 months ago.

The result barely looked in any doubt once he got loose coming down the hill and the chance had nine-and-a-half lengths in hand crossing the line. Defi Du Seuil trailed in an extremely disappointing fourth.

Nicholls said: "My plan when I rang John up at Christmas was I said I wasn't going to run him until the Champion Chase.

"I wanted to do everything I could to have him fit and fresh and all week and he's just been looking amazing. He had a great prep. He ran ran well last year and was entitled to go close on that run, and I thought he was in a better place.

"It's his fifth Festival in a row and testament to the horse, he bled after the Tingle Creek and we just changed a few things.

"He does all his work on the level and trotting up the road. We just tweaked his work to stop him bleeding and he did the job right.

"The tactics where great, it was awesome. I looked in the paddocks before and I thought Politologue was a standout, and I'm just pleased we stuck to the plan and kept him fresh and fit."

Hales, winning the race for the third time after One Man and Azertyuiop, said: "That was brilliant. We dictated it from start to finish. Tactically, Harry got it absolutely right.

"In his previous race we thought they'd gone too slow, so I said make your own pace. If that means going on from the start, run the finish out of them – and that's what he did. I've over the moon. My third Queen Mother."

Jockey Harry Skelton, left, alongside owner John Hales and his Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Politologue. Reuters
Jockey Harry Skelton, left, alongside owner John Hales after Politologue won the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Reuters

Of the beaten favourite, trainer Philip Hobbs said: "I've no idea what happened really. He has been great all season and won his three races. We thought he came here in very good form, as everything had gone well with him at home, then that happens, and at this stage we have no idea what happened.

"Even before three out he wasn't happy with him. Obviously we will get him back home and check him over. We will have a look at things at the next week then decide what to do. It is too early to say if his season is over."

Geraghty said: "He was never really going. I was trying to nurse him into it, but I knew from the back of the third-last that the game was up. Full credit to the winner and he was the last horse that Defi passed here in November. He got his day and it was well justified.

"He [Defi Du Seuil] has [dominated the division all season], but he is fine and healthy and he is OK. For no obvious reason he didn't perform, but he will have other days. He is still a gorgeous horse and I'm sure there is plenty more fun to be had with him."

Updated: March 11, 2020 10:01 PM

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