Grade One William Hill Champion Chase Guide 2022

Jake Russell | @JakeRuss1000

Punchestown - April 25 2022
Punchestown 16:25
Paul Townend


J: Paul Townend
T: W P Mullins
Age: 8
Weight: 11-12
OR: 175
Days: 41

The new Champion Chaser and arguably the top 2-miler in the world of racing at the moment, The Willie Mullins trained Energumene cemented himself at the top of the pecking order with a superb victory at Cheltenham in the Grade 1 Champion Chase.

That race proved a slight disappointment for neutrals with a very poor run of Shishkin who has since been confirmed he had a slight issue after the race, one of the reasons he didn’t run his true race, plus the unfortunate unseating of Patrick Mullins by Chacun Pour Soi.

However, Energumene, under a previously untried, patient ride by Paul Townend, surged clear in the closing stages to win by 8½ lengths despite the attritional conditions at Cheltenham that day after a morning and afternoon full of rain.

Revenge would have felt sweet for the Mullins yard, who had seen the eight-year-old defeated so narrowly by Shishkin at Ascot in that fantastic Clarence House Chase, a race that will really live long in the memory of every national hunt racing fan.

Though now there are no underdogs, and he will have to prove his worth at the top of the tree by landing another Grade 1 this season.

It will be no mean feat were he to beat Chacun Pour Soi in Ireland, as many a talented horse has fallen by the wayside against that rival. However, Energumene is a special horse, the sort that doesn't really come around very often.

The 8-length winner of the Champion Chase last time out, one of the leading 2-milers in training at the moment, has a worthy adversary in Chacun Pour Soi in this, but with the younger legs and class performance last time out, he is the one to beat in this.

Punchestown - April 25 2022
Punchestown 16:25
Mr P W Mullins

Chacun Pour Soi

J: Mr P W Mullins
T: W P Mullins
Age: 10
Weight: 11-12
OR: 176
Days: 41

The second Willie Mullins horse in this line up, he was a winner of six of his first seven starts over fences a few seasons back looking the second coming over the 2-mile trip, Chacun Pour Soi has slightly lost his edge as the winning machine of late

He has won just two of his last five, which would hardly count as a dry spell for most horses, but it is notable in its contrast to his previous form as the previous winning machine, especially when it comes to Grade 1 races over in Ireland, as he clearly loves to run well there.

However, there is another factor which puts it into some kind of context, all three of those recent defeats have come when travelling across to England, twice at Cheltenham and once at Sandown in the Tingle Creek when having his first run of this season.

He has maintained a near flawless record in Ireland, winning eight of his nine chase starts when remaining closer to home. Indeed, he has not just been winning when staying in Ireland but really giving his opposition quite the beating. He won this by 5½ lengths from none other than Allaho last term who has since come out to win the Ryanair at the Cheltenham festival twice.

That was an extremely high-quality performance and showed him at his destructive best. His win in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown in February showed he still has all his sparkle, and he will be formidable to defeat here but needs to still show he has the quality against a younger top-class prospect.

Multiple Grade 1 winner who always does very well in these types of races in Ireland but is up against another top-class horse who has the younger legs, still needs to show he has that sparkle but judging by his previous form, that certainly isn’t a possibility.

Punchestown - April 25 2022
Punchestown 16:25
Rachael Blackmore

Envoi Allen

J: Rachael Blackmore
T: Henry De Bromhead
Age: 8
Weight: 11-12
OR: 161
Days: 41

For a few brief moments between the third and second last fences at Cheltenham, it looked as if we might get one of the best results of the season, when the much-loved Envoi Allen was running a corker of a race in the Champion Chase last time out.

Envoi Allen much feted throughout his career, has been thrown about much more this season, as the step up to open company has proved much more challenging than his novice days after being thrown form 2-mile races to 2m4f races.

However, he did bounce back to form, when winning the Grade 1 Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown in December battering his rivals by just under 8 lengths, although that was quite a weak, three-runner race with two horses in behind who aren’t near Grade 1 quality.

Nevertheless, Cheltenham arrived, and it was perhaps a surprise he went for the Champion Chase above the Ryanair at a more intermediate trip.

He headed towards the final two fences, travelling kindly enough, only for his engine to empty in the wake of Energumene’s late surge up the hill.

Overturning that form looks an incredibly hard task here on better conditions that will suit the top two in the market, but he could run into 3rd place once again.

A very good 3rd last time out in the Champion Chase when running well before emptying in the hard conditions, he was a very good novice, but things haven’t gone his way lately, so really needs to take a step up in this, against two top class horses, so he might have to settle for 3rd place at best in this.

Punchestown - April 25 2022
Punchestown 16:25
Mark Walsh

Andy Dufresne

J: Mark Walsh
T: Gordon Elliott
Age: 8
Weight: 11-12
OR: 157
Days: 41

A Grade 2 winner over hurdles and Grade 3 scorer over fences in his career, Andy Dufresne has had a rock-solid career for Gordon Elliott.

In 11 rules starts, he has only once been outside the top three, with five of his races resulting in victory. He has not been a prolific racer like some of these in this field, never meeting a track more than four times in a season.

This term, he has only run twice to date, both have resulted in runner-up finishes, first to Captain Guinness at Naas in a Grade 3 last November, when conceding him 7lb, and the latter at the Cheltenham Festival when lining up in the Grand Annual in March.

He went off favourite for his first handicap start in that race the Grand Annual, but found Global Citizen too strong, conceding 19lb’s to that rival in very testing conditions.

He is a very steady and consistent operator and there is every chance he will perform capably again but doesn’t have the previous form shown that the main two in the market have, so as a winning proposition, he would need the two Willie Mullins runners to not run their true race in this contest.

Very consistent and capable type, but hasn’t won since December 2020, making him quite vulnerable against two top class chasers, would need them to not run their true race to land a blow in this.

Punchestown - April 25 2022
Punchestown 16:25
Davy Russell

Captain Guinness

J: Davy Russell
T: Henry De Bromhead
Age: 7
Weight: 11-12
OR: 162
Days: 18

Rachael Blackmore has decided to get onboard Envoi Allen for this race, whereas she usually rides Captain Guinness in his races, he is probably the most genuine outsider in the field who looks to be the ones of the outsiders that isn’t to be exposed.

He may have beaten Andy Dufresne earlier in the season, but that came in receipt of 7lb from that rival.

Similarly, though he won a Grade 3 at Naas from a useful rival back in February, he has run three times in Grade 1s this season and finished unplaced in each.

Some heart could be taken from the fact he finished ahead of Chacun Pour Soi in the Tingle Creek, however that horse clearly had an off day, while Captain Guinness’s most recent start came in the Melling Chase at Aintree, he was well-beaten behind Fakir D’oudairies when finishing a pretty remote 6th of 10 runners.

The step back to 2m will definitely help this horse; his best form comes over this trip with 4 wins to his name over the 2-mile trip, but he is not a Grade 1 horse compared to some of his rivals here.

Was tested at a slightly further trip last time out in the Melling Chase at the Aintree Festival, so this step back down to 2-miles will suit, but he lacks the Grade 1 quality that the main protagonists in this field have. Probably best watched in this pretty red-hot contest.