When Cheltenham's four-day extravaganza draws to a close on Friday evening, it would be no surprise if the consensus is that this year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase was the race of the week.

Favourite Shiskin is unbeaten under Rules when he’s completed the course, with his only loss coming on his hurdling debut at Newbury in 2019.

Energumene boasted a perfect record in seven outings over the last two years until losing little in defeat against Nicky Henderson’s star chaser in the race of the season thus far in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January.

Throw in Chacun Por Soi, who has disappointed on two sorties to England having never tasted defeat on Irish soil, and we’ve got all the ingredients for a thriller in Wednesday’s Festival feature.

Shiskin’s win in last year’s Arkle came in a remarkably fast time and, after skipping his intended comeback in the Tingle Creek, he’s also lit up the clock in his wins at Kempton in the Desert Orchid Chase and at Ascot in that win over Energumene.

Having won at the last two Festivals and accounted for his main market rival, there’s a view that the form is highly unlikely to be reversed from Ascot.

However, Willie Mullins' Energumene likely did too much, too soon at Ascot before being reeled in, and his supporters can point to the fact that the Old Course on a sounder surface is nothing like as testing as Ascot on soft ground.

The trip is also a furlong shorter, at which point Paul Townend’s mount still led Shiskin at Ascot.

One major negative for Energumene is that he’s unlikely to enjoy an uncontested lead here as he did at Ascot. He does seem a need-to-lead sort and it’s probably unwise to curtail his natural exuberance at this stage.

He travels so strongly in his races that the other frontrunners may struggle to go with him, but he’s also unlikely to get a breather in the middle part of the race due to the presence of Chacun Por Soi in the field.

Energumene’s stablemate has won many of his races by burning off rivals with a mid-race injection of pace, so this contest could be run at a relentless temp from flag fall, which will suit a stalking Shiskin.

Chacun Por Soi’s Tingle Creek run was lamentable, but it was so bad that it’s best to put a line through it. It came on his seasonal debut and every horse should be forgiven a too-bad-to-be-true performance.

His body of work over his illustrious career is far more informative, but his third-place finish in a weak renewal of this race last year is arguably a greater cause for concern.

It's been suggested that he isn’t a good traveller and/or that he was overcooked coming to the Festival in 2021, but he’s now tasked with lowering the colours of two rivals in their pomp as a 10-year-old.

It’s difficult to see a rival to the big three capable of causing a massive upset.

Defending champion Put The Kettle On clearly comes alive around here. Henry de Bromhead’s runner has won at the last two Festivals and has won four of her five starts at Cheltenham. It’s an incredible record, but she races prominently, and a shock is more likely to be provided by a hold-up horse in the event of a pace collapse.

Nube Negra will be ridden off the pace and some have posited that view that he was unsuited by the steady early gallop in last year’s Champion Chase where he finished a fast-finishing runner-up. However, he’s no dour stayer himself having begun his career on the Flat as a miler and 10-furlong horse. He could make the frame, but likely needs misfortune to befall at least one of the market leaders to score a shock success.

The adage about "never being afraid of one horse" is worth heeding, but it’s a different matter when you’ve two or possibly three runners with a major class edge over their rivals.

Verdict

The likely pace scenario should suit Shiskin down to a tee, but taking a short price about two-mile chasers who jump low and fast comes with plenty of danger. His status as the English banker of the meeting means he’s arguably already been overbet, even if he is the best horse in the race. Energumene could yet gain revenge for that Ascot reversal, but while Shiskin looks certain to finish first or second barring a jumping mishap, there is a legitimate concern that Energumene could be harried into setting too brisk of a tempo. This may be a race to savour rather than one to bet in, but the price discrepancy between the two standouts now looks too great, making Energumene (4-1) the selection.