Cheltenham Festival: Energumene routs rivals in Champion Chase demolition for Paul Townend and Willie Mullins | Racing News


Energumene retained his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown with a breathtaking performance under Paul Townend for trainer Willie Mullins at the Cheltenham Festival.

In truth, there was never a moment’s worry for backers of the 6/5 favourite, who jumped beautifully and travelled smoothly into the race under a motionless Townend.

In contrast, second-favourite and Arkle winner Energumene never looked like challenging, having struggled on the testing ground and made mistakes early.

Energumene and Paul Townend jump the last in the Champion Chase

Turning for home, Alan King’s charge looked beaten with only Energumene, Clarence House Chase winner Editeur De Gite and Captain Guinness, ridden by Rachael Blackmore, in contention.

But it quickly became clear that Townend and Energumene were going best of all and they put the race to bed between the last two fences, sailing over the last before cruising up the hill for a 10-length success.

Captain Guinness and Blackmore stayed on to take second, whilst Greaneteen stayed on to take third from Editeur De Gite in fourth and Edwardstone back in fifth.

The victory gave Townend his second Champion Chase title, both on Energumene, whilst the winning trainer was also collecting his second victory in this race with the horse the first back-to-back winner since Altior in 2018 and 2019.

The win also gives Tony Bloom, owner of Brighton and Hove Albion, a second victory in the race.

Speaking after the race, the winning trainer said: “Paul had a very positive frame of mind going out. He said he was going to jump off up there. He thought everyone was going to be very tight and he wanted to be away fast and that is the way the race worked out.

“He had it right and the horse loved the ground and jumping. He was just brilliant on the day and Paul was just brilliant on him.

“I was way more confident coming into this year’s race as we hadn’t got Shishkin to take on and we thought if there was any improvement from the Clarence House that with hopefully with a clear round he would win.”

Successful jockey Paul Townend added: “That was easy, to be honest. I got in a lovely rhythm on him, after the first two fences he was taking them on, he was quick at them, and it was simple – it was just a matter of keeping him in a rhythm after that.

“He allowed me to ride him more forward [than in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot] because he took on his fences better today. Looser ground probably helped as well and played a factor in it, but he was just more forward. He felt a different horse today.

“He had a little reach at the fence three out, I think it was – those championship two-milers, they are supposed to be running like that, though. It was a dream ride and I was able to take it all in coming up the straight, which doesn’t usually happen in those championship races.”