Past Winners » Finian’s Rainbow

14th March 2012

Sizing Europe is going to take a lot of beating in his bid for back-to-back Champion Chases, there’s no getting away from that. He comfortably announced himself to be the best in the two-mile division last year, and after his now annual attempt to stay three miles early in the season, he has readily confirmed his superiority at this trip once again.

He may just out-class the field once again today, but, whereas last year he came into the race as the previous year’s Arkle winner but available at a double-figure price, this year he is there to be shot at and is no better than even money. The returning champion has only won 10 times the following year from 32 attempts and eight of the last nine winners came into the race with fewer runs over fences to their name than Sizing Europe this year. It is often an up-and-coming horse who wins the Champion Chase.

Henry de Bromhead’s horse is obviously the most likely winner of the race, but, having kicked this race around for a long time, I have come to the conclusion that the value now lies in Finian’s Rainbow at 11/2, the longest price he has been for the race since he got beaten at Ascot.

The previous year’s Arkle Chase has been a fantastic guide to the Champion Chase (as Sizing Europe demonstrated last year), and Finian’s Rainbow brings the top novice form from last year into the race this year. Okay, he didn’t win the Arkle, but the horse who beat him has gone up in trip this year, so Finian’s Rainbow represents the best of last year’s two-mile novices at the trip this year, and he did go on to win the Grade 1 Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree.

Some have questioned his ability to really get up the Cheltenham hill at Championship pace – as well as being passed in the Arkle last year he travelled strongly in the Neptune two years ago before only finishing fifth. However, the Neptune is over two miles and five furlongs, he proved in his novice hurdle days that he stays at least two and a half miles, and he was only beaten in the Arkle by a very good horse, a horse who would be a real live Gold Cup contender but for his jumping frailties.

On top of that, Nicky Henderson has said repeatedly that he was just a bit too free and buzzy last year as a novice and that he has matured this season. That was evident on his first run of this season in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton where, after slithering on landing at the fourth last fence and looking to have no chance as they jumped the third last fence, he came with a powerful late run to mow down Wishfull Thinking and Oiseau De Nuit.

Oiseau De Nuit may well have won had he jumped the last well, and it was a little disappointing how Finian’s Rainbow didn’t find more when Somersby came to join him just after jumping the last in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot on his previous run. He was reportedly not quite at concert-pitch at Ascot though, it was less than four weeks after his big effort at Kempton, and Somersby loves Ascot, he always comes up the hill there strongly. Finian’s Rainbow should be spot-on for today having only had the two runs this season. Hopefully they will ride him with moer restraint today than at Ascot, hopefully he will sit in behind Sizing Europe and try to tackle him on the run to the last, because they should go a fast pace, with Sizing Europe and Wishfull Thinking in the line up. At 11/2, Finian’s Rainbow is worth backing. With the dead eight runners, a short-priced favourite and the bookmakers betting ¼ the odds a place, he is an each-way bet.