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Cheltenham

  • 15:20 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase 2m

  • (Grade 1) £350,000 added 5yo+ 9 ran
  • Winner £199,325 2nd £74,795 3rd £37,450 4th £18,655
  • Going: Good, Good to Soft in places
  • Surface: Turf
    Weighed In
  • Winning time: 3m 53.30s
  • Off time: 15:20:29

Cheltenham Festival: Dodging Bullets wins Queen Mother Champion Chase

Last Updated: 11/03/15 8:16pm

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Cheltenham Festival: Dodging Bullets wins Queen Mother Champion Chase

Dodging Bullets came out on top of a three-horse battle for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, the highlight of the second day of the Chetltenham Festival.

Paul Nicholls' improving chaser was all out at the line but managed to hold off a brave challenge from 2014 runner-up Somersby and the front-running Special Tiara to win at 9/2.

Reigning champion Sire De Grugy finished fourth but there was no fairytale return for Sprinter Sacre, the 2013 champion, who was pulled up before the last.

Special Tiara tried to repeat his all guns blazing effort from Kempton last time, getting no hassle on the front and jumping much better than last season when he was also fancied to make the places.

Dodging Bullets, bred by star flat jockey Frankie Dettori, nosed to the front coming off the home turn with Somersby (33/1) also well in contention and Sire De Grugy threatening to run on.

The eventual winner idled a little in front and three jumped the last in line, but it was Dodging Bullets who picked up best on the run-in for jockey Sam Twiston-Davies to win by just over a length, with Special Tiara a similar distance back in third.

Sprinter Sacre, who was backed into favouritism, jumped sketchily in midfield and was never really travelling as well as he has in the past after having only one run since he was sidelined by a heart issue - he was pulled up by Barry Geraghty between the last two.

Twiston-Davies, like Nicholls completing a double after Aux Ptits Soins won the Coral Cup, said: "What a horse, Harry Derham and the team have done a great job - Harry rides him all the time wouldn't let Frankie Dettori ride him at home when he came down the other day, which says a lot.

"I need to get my breath back, I'm shaking a bit! I missed two out a bit, I was almost going too well."

Nicholls said: "That was absolutely awesome. It's good for the owners and good for the team. The progress he's made has been absolutely phenomonal. He's got better and better.

"He should have been favourite on form. I couldn't see why the other two (Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy) were ahead of him in the market.

"Progressive horses usually come out on top. We know where we are going with him now. He's such a special horse."

'Unbelievable'

Dettori described the outcome as "unbelievable" and he added of the seven-year-old son of Dubawi: "It was meant to be the Derby, but this is the second-best.

"Sam gave him a fantastic ride. He jumped like a stag. My legs were shaking a little bit. What a horse."

Winning owner Martin Broughton said: "The anticipation is almost too much, and when you get to the race itself, you just want them to come back safe.

"All the way round I got more and more confident. It was all going exactly to plan. This is fantastic. I'm absolutely ecstatic. It's all been Sprinter versus Sire. I'm happy under the radar."

Mick Channon, trainer of Somersby, said: "He's been in great form, it was only really the race at Ascot (Clarence House) where he disappointed. He has run pound for pound to his Tingle Creek form and run his race - I'm delighted for everybody."

And Gary Moore felt the ground was a bit too lively for Sire De Grugy, as he added: "The ground wasn't soft enough for him.

"He showed at Chepstow how good he was when it's deep, but on ground like this, he wants two and a half miles these days."

Henry de Bromhead was thrilled with the effort of Special Tiara, adding: "I'm delighted with that run, Noel (Fehily) gave him a super ride. He got him filled up coming round home turn and coming to the second-last he thought he might win, but then he just petered out.

"To be fair he is better on a flatter track, but he has run a blinder and we are delighted. He's a good ground horse and we will look at Sandown or Punchestown, whichever one Dodging Bullets doesn't go for."

Champagne Fever was a late withdrawal from the race and trainer Willie Mullins revealed the strange reason behind his absence - being bitten by one of his stable companions.

"I think it was Un Atout who did it," said the County Carlow handler. "It's very little, but we felt it wasn't worth the risk.

"The swelling just got a bit bigger this morning and we felt it was safer not to run."

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