Such is the perceived versatility of Paul Nicholls’ tremendous chaser Master Minded that he is currently prominent in the ante-post betting for three of the four biggest races of the Cheltenham Festival with options still remaining open for him to take his chance in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Ryanair Chase, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, writes Elliot Slater.
The likely target for the recent Amlin1965 Chase winner may well become somewhat clearer after the Clive Smith-owned gelding takes his chance in the Grade 1 King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, his first attempt at the distance of three-miles in a career that has already seen him twice crowned champion chaser at two-miles and also seen him prove more than up to winning Grade 1 contests such at the Melling Chase at Aintree over half a mile further. People looking at the latest online Cheltenham race odds should bear this in mind.
Hopes are high in the Nicholls camp that the combination of a relatively easy three-miles at Kempton and the anticipated decent ground should give the son of Nikos every chance of getting home in the Christmas showpiece event in which his illustrious stable companion and living legend Kauto Star will bid for a fifth win in the race at the expense of last year’s winner and hot favourite Long Run.
Should Master Minded fail to stay, then he would likely be trained to bid for the two-and-a-half mile Ryanair Chase (for which he is a best priced 8/1 second favourite), whilst it would be impossible to rule out a further drop back to the minimum trip and a crack at a third Champion Chase title at a distance over which he has excelled so many times in the past. If however it is clear that the eight-year-old doesn’t see out the ‘King George’ trip then anyone who has taken odds of up to 25/1 about Master Minded in the ante-post market for the Cheltenham Gold Cup will be well within their right to tear up their ticket and look elsewhere for the winner of the blue riband event.