There is at least a possibility that the last two winners of the two mile Queen Mother Champion Chase, Finian’s Rainbow and Sizing Europe, will be campaigned over a longer distance in the 2012-13, possibly taking in the King George at Kempton in December with a view to a later crack at the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Should either horse manage to complete the step up in distance and land the Gold Cup they will have a place in history as the first ever Champion Chase- Gold Cup double winner. While Dawn Run is famously the only horse to have completed a Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup double no horse has managed to win both the Champion Chase and Gold Cup since the former events introduction to the festival in 1959. It probably isn’t that surprising that the double has proved elusive considering the differing emphasis on speed and stamina in each of the Cheltenham Festival feature chases.
The highest profile horse in recent years to have had a go at winning both events is undoubtedly Kauto Star. Kauto Star was a horse gifted with both a turn of foot and stamina and we can only wonder what might have happened had he got round the Cheltenham course in the Champion Chase in 2006 won by Newmill. At least Kauto was given his chance. There are those who maintain Champion Chase winner Flyingbolt might have been up to the challenge if he had been allowed to challenge stablemate Arkle over the longer distance in the 1960s.
The horse who probably came closest to achieving the double was John Hales popular grey One Man. Although unable to see out the Gold Cup Trip One Man did land the Champion Chase in 1999 and was the first horse to win the Champion Chase and King George VI Chase.
Edredon Bleu later became the second horse to win both races following up 2001 Champion Chase success in the 2003 King George :
One Man's owner John Hales later unsuccessfully tried for a second King George-Champion Chase double with the 2004 Champion Chaser Azertyuiop but he had to give best to Kicking King in the 2004 King George VI Chase. Masterminded was the latest horse to seek a Champion Chase - King George double but was unable to add the longer event in 2011.
So what are the chances of Sizing Europe or Finian's Rainbow making history ?
Sizing Europe has been tried over 3 miles before and has finished second in the last two Grade 1 James Nicholson Champion Steeplechases at Down Royal losing out to Quito De la Rogue in 2011 and Kauto Star in 2010. He could well be effective on good ground at Kempton. Whether he will stay the Gold Cup trip is another question !
Finian’s Rainbow has gone no further than 2 miles 4 furlongs over fences but possibly gave a career best performance over that distance in the 2012 John Melling Chase at Aintree. Whether that win (Cheltenham Champion Chase- John Melling double winners are relatively common) is evidence that Finian’s Rainbow will stay further is questionable but he could be an interesting King George runner. His owner Michael Buckley said this before Finian Rainbow's 2011 Arkle run:
"I'd got it into my head he was a stayer ...He'd always shown a lot of pace at home, and Nicky's assistant Tom Symonds was the first to mention that he thought this could be a horse for the Arkle. I shrugged off that idea at the time, but Barry Geraghty said that stayers can have the pace to be competitive in the Arkle, and gave Kicking King [second to Well Chief in 2004] as an obvious example. Barry added that he would expect Finian's to stay three miles, but he considers he has more pace over two than Kicking King."
We look forward to finding out !
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