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Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Cheltenham, 10-13 March, 2009

Cornelius Lysaght
By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC racing correspondent

As opponents of reigning Queen Mother Champion Chaser Master Minded face an apparent mission impossible taking him on in the day's feature race (1515 GMT), a fascinating statistic comes flying to their rescue.

Examination of the record books tells us that each of the last nine title-holders was defeated when defending the crown the following season.

Ruby Walsh on Master Minded
Master Minded was a magnificent winner 12 months ago
For one reason or another, superb horses like Flagship Uberalles, Moscow Flyer and Voy Por Ustedes did not win back- to-back Queen Mothers, with Viking Flagship (1994/95) the last that did.

On all known form, however, and given a clear round, there is no way Master Minded's rivals are going to snatch the top spot away from him.

Paul Nicholls has described the six-year-old, owned by Clive Smith, as "the best horse I've trained, and maybe ever will train" and there have been similar superlatives from jockey Ruby Walsh.

Such is the sky-high regard in which the horse is held that many have been frightened off, notably last year's runner-up Voy Por Ustedes, who is Ryanair Chase-bound.

The sort of odds being offered about Master Minded are probably only attractive to those with Sir Fred Goodwin-like sums in their bank accounts, but he is as near a certainty as I can remember at a Festival.

How about a horse at decent odds that might pose a danger? Have a look at Well Chief, a rather fragile individual that has not run for nearly two years.

If turning up on song, this former QM Chase runner-up (in 2005) and second-fence faller (when hot favourite in 2007) could give Master Minded something to think about.

Also on day two, look out for:

Sir Alex Ferguson, part-owner of leading RSA Chase contender What A Friend, trained by Paul Nicholls. Manchester United's Champions League match against Inter Milan at Old Trafford may well scupper plans to attend.

In the same race (1440), Ireland's Cooldine is a strong fancy, as is Carruthers, owned by a syndicate headed by hugely popular former amateur jockey and TV presenter Lord John Oaksey.

Modern-day amateur riders contest the historic National Hunt Chase, the race which opens the card at 1330. It is worth noting that top amateur Oliver Greenall is different class at the moment.

Devon-trained Diamond Harry brings an unbeaten record that reads six wins from six starts to the Ballymore Properties Hurdle (1405).

The second day crowd is expected to be bolstered by those from the financial world that dare venture away from their desks. It's normally Budget day but this year the Chancellor needs more time.

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see also
Master Minded leads Chase field
09 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Cornelius Lysaght column
07 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Master Minded eases to Ascot win
18 Jan 09 |  Horse Racing
Master Minded triumphs at Sandown
06 Dec 08 |  Horse Racing
Master Minded stunned by Voy Por
04 Apr 08 |  Horse Racing
Master Minded powers to Chase win
13 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing

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