03/15/2016 7:49AM

Cheltenham: Un De Sceaux formidable in Queen Mother Champion Chase


CHELTENHAM, England - When he finishes his races, Un De Sceaux wins.

A specialist in two-mile steeplechases in the last 17 months, Un De Sceaux will be be an odds-on favorite to win for the 15th time in his 17th start in Wednesday’s $500,500 Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham Racecourse.

In chases, the 8-year-old Un De Sceaux has won five of seven starts. He fell in his chasing debut in November 2014 in Ireland and again as the 1-4 favorite in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown Racecourse in Ireland in December.

Un De Sceaux made amends with a smart five-length win in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at 2 1/8 miles at Ascot in January, a race that put him on course for the Grade 1 Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Trained by Willie Mullins for Edward O’Connell of County Cork, Ireland, Un De Sceaux must mind his manners in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. He is part of a field of 10 which includes Sprinter Sacre, the winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2013 who was pulled up in the race last year, and Sire de Grugy, who was second to Un De Sceaux in the Clarence House Chase.

The sentimental choice will be Sprinter Sacre.

Trained in England by Nicky Henderson, the 10-year-old Sprinter Sacre was diagnosed with an erratic heart beat in early 2014 and did not start that year. In the 2015 Queen Mother Champion Chase, Sprinter Sacre was pulled up, leading to speculation that his racing career was over.

A month later, Sprinter Sacre was second in the Grade 1 A.P. McCoy Celebration Chase, and is unbeaten in two starts during the 2015-16 season – a 14-length win in the Grade 2 Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November and a hard-fought win over Sire de Grugy in the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Stakes at Kempton Park in December.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is part of a seven-race program.

Earlier in the day, Yanworth will be a heavy favorite to win the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at 2 5/8 miles. More of That is the leading contender for the Grade 1 RSA Chase at three miles, which often produces prospects for the following year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is Friday and is the leading race on the fourth and final day of the meeting.