Master Minded proved emphatically that he is the best chaser in training, winning a second Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase for trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Ruby Walsh.
On ground that was softer than he would like, the six-year-old French-bred showed his superb acceleration after a sure-footed round of jumping to power up the Cheltenham hill.
Sent off the 4-11 favourite for the two-mile championship race, Master Minded is now just 4-1 with bookmakers William Hill to win a further two Champion Chases. No horse has won four, and only Badsworth Boy took the race three times.
It wasn’t as impressive as his trouncing of 2007 winner Voy Por Ustedes last year, but Master Minded was well able to hold off his rivals by seven lengths. Well Chief, off the track for two years with injury, ran a brilliant comeback race under Timmy Murphy for second place, while Petit Robin was third for trainer Nicky Henderson.
It was Ruby Walsh’s third winner of the day — he won the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Mikael D’Haguenet, and the RSA Chase on the well-fancied Cooldine. Both were for trainer Willie Mullins. Walsh is clear of his weighing-room rivals for the jockeys’ title at Cheltenham this week with four winners so far — he also won the last on Tuesday on Quevega.
H&H columnist Choc Thornton was taken to hospital after a heavy fall from Big Zeb in the Champion Chase. He will have to pass a medical assessment in the morning, but is expected to ride tomorrow.