Azertyuiop the answer to Champion conundrum

AZERTYUIOP is the choice to land what promises to be the race of the meeting, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, at Cheltenham this afternoon.

Paul Nicholls' charge has a bit to find with Moscow Flyer, on their running in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December, but is three years younger than his rival and has more scope for improvement.

That Tingle Creek was a cracking contest. Moscow Flyer beat Azertyuiop by a length and a half, with the young pretender, Well Chief, only a short head further away in third.

Strictly on the book Moscow Flyer should win again, but there is no doubt he got the run of the race on that occasion and there are solid grounds for believing Azertyuiop capable of reversing the placings.

Moscow Flyer has since recorded a comfortable victory, he went off a 2-11 chance, in a moderate event at Punchestown.

Azertyuiop didn't stay when third to Kicking King and Kingscliff in the King George at Kempton and then produced a smashing performance in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

He gave 4lbs and a two and a half lengths beating to Well Chief and that represents form of the highest order.

Well Chief's jumping left a bit to be desired then, but he rates a major chance over a track where he is at his best. Azertyuiop to outstay Moscow Flyer is the hopeful prediction.

We have a strong hand in the opening Royal and SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle, particularly with Royal Paradise and Queen Astrid.

Royal Paradise is a tough sort, who has improved through the campaign. His latest appearance saw him beat the Railway Man an easy three lengths, conceding 7lbs as well, in the Grade One Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Queen Astrid, rated over 100 on the flat, is unbeaten in her two races over flights to date. Dermot Weld intimated yesterday that he expects her to run a very big race.

Preference, however, is for Philip Hobbs' Gold Medallist. A more than useful sort on the level, he has won all three of his contests over hurdles.

He battled well to beat Pole Star half a length at Huntingdon last time and is the type to dig deep when the going gets tough!

We have seven possibilities in the Weatherbys' Champion Bumper and, perhaps, a little each-way on Eye On The Ball mightn't go too far astray.

Connections think he is very much a horse for the future, but there was little wrong with his second to the above average Merdeka at Leopardstown at Christmas.


2.00 Gold Medallist (n.b); 2.35 L'Ami; 3.15 Azertyuiop (nap); 4.00 Distant Prospect; 4.40 Lou Du Moulin Mas; 5.20 Eye On The Ball (e.w)

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