How many lengths can Sprinter Sacre win the Champion Chase by?
It will demand a truly top-drawer performance from Sprinter Sacre if he is to win the Champion Chase by more than 10 lengths, but with many of his better rivals potentially swerving him to run in the Ryanair Chase, such a margin of victory is far from unbelievable.
Known as “Mourinho” at Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard, the unbeaten chaser has proven far too special for his adversaries in his seven career runs over fences to date. Rather than if he will win the 2m Grade 1, the question upon punters’ lips is “how far?”
History suggests that it’ll take a performance for the ages to drastically improve upon the eased-down seven lengths by which he took the Arkle in such glorious fashion at last year’s festival.
Only three Champion Chase winners have prevailed by more than seven lengths in the last 20 years, with Master Minded – who blew away favourite Voy Por Ustedes by 19 breath-taking lengths in 2008 – the only 10 length-plus victor during that period.
No rival has got within 12-lengths of steeplechasing’s answer to Frankel this term and leafing back through his relentlessly glorious scrapbook reveals an eased-down, six-length on the-bridle success in the 2012 Game Spirit Chase at Newbury to be his shortest winning distance to date over fences.
The next shortest came by an eased-down seven lengths in the 2012 Arkle. However, rather than the greater quality of the race it seemed that a planned trip to Aintree the following month was behind the relatively (by the great beast’s high standards) small margin of victory.
With a similar double no doubt in mind this term, it’s unlikely jockey Barry Geraghty will push his mount all the way to the line in the Champion Chase unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Despite this proviso, with the classiest of his likely challengers Sizing Europe and Finian’s Rainbow seriously considering the Ryanair Chase as an alternative engagement (with Cue Card already having defected) it may be that it’s the dearth of serious opposition that ultimately helps Sprinter Sacre beyond the 10-length winning margin.