Timeform Champion Chase Preview: Sceaux it shall be

Can Ryanair hero Un de Sceaux win at Punchestown again?
Can Ryanair hero Un de Sceaux win at Punchestown again?

Timeform preview Tuesday's Champion Chase on day one of the Punchestown Festival and recommend a bet...

...produced an excellent performance, the third-best on Timeform ratings for a winner of the Ryanair Chase, when defeating Sub Lieutenant by one-and-a-half lengths at Cheltenham last month...

The enigmatic Un de Sceaux produced an excellent performance, the third-best on Timeform ratings for a winner of the Ryanair Chase, when defeating Sub Lieutenant by one-and-a-half lengths at Cheltenham last month. Willie Mullins' star arrives here fresh having swerved the Melling Chase at Aintree at the beginning of the month and - despite being only 1 lb ahead of Fox Norton on weight-adjusted ratings - he looks the one to beat.

Un de Sceaux's absence in the Melling provided an ideal opportunity for Fox Norton to build on his excellent second in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham, and he won his first Grade 1 in emphatic fashion. Whilst it won't be Fox Norton's first trip to Punchestown - he finished third in the Champion 4-Y-O Hurdle here in 2014 - he arrives as a completely different proposition this time around and rates as a big danger to the favourite with improvement still a possibility.

God's Own was second behind Un de Sceaux in the 2015 Arkle, before finally breaking his duck at the top level in last year's Melling. That win came in fortuitous circumstances, with the 5/1-on favourite Vautour departing at midway, but he defeated the same rival fair and square in this race next time out, and will be looking to repeat the trick 12 months on. God's Own hasn't been able to replicate that form so far this season, letting himself down with his jumping in the Champion Chase, however he clearly saves his best for this time of the year - he has a 100% record at this festival with two wins. Stablemate Sir Valentino has posted three very smart efforts since winning the Peterborough Chase in November, the most recent a six length third behind Special Tiara and Fox Norton in the Champion Chase, but he tends to be ridden to pick up the pieces.

Jessica Harrington is enjoying a fine season, and it's notable that Rock The World is being given the opportunity to step up in grade after a commanding win in the Grand Annual handicap at Cheltenham last month. Rock The World produced a career-best to win that day, but this rates a much tougher assignment. Ballycasey has looked better than ever this season, winning three Grade 2 contests in his last four starts, including most recently when defeating the equally progressive Ball d'Arc by half a length, but even his best here might not be good enough.

The eight-strong field is completed by the Gordon Elliott-trained duo of Realt Mor and The Game Changer. Realt Mor won a handicap over hurdles at Thurles in January but hasn't been in great form since, including when well below form in the Imperial Call Chase at Cork last time, while The Game Changer won five times in 2015/16 but is badly out of sorts at present, pulled up on three of his last four starts - including at Fairyhouse a week ago.


Recommendation:
Win Back Un de Sceaux in Tuesday's Champion Chase at Punchestown

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