Cue Card, Flemenstar and 2m4f offer Sprinter Sacre’s hardest test yet
There has yet to be a test that Nicky Henderson’s Sprinter Sacre hasn’t passed with flying colours since he took his first race over fences and his legend was born. In the Queen Mother Champion Chase last time out, he turned what had – according to official ratings – been his toughest assignment to date into a 19 length cruise, equalling the margin of Master Minded’s stunning 2008 victory in the same race in the process.
Sizing Europe, his leading opponent that day, was rated 172 coming into that race, having won each of his previous five chase starts, but while he was probably the best rival “Mourinho” has faced to date it’s hard to believe that at the aged of 11 he could remain at the same level as when taking his own Champion Chase back in 2011.
The Melling Chase sees Sprinter Sacre pit his wits against two chasers that unlike Sizing Europe are certain to still have their best days ahead of them in Cue Card and Flemenstar. What’s more he’ll take a step, or rather half a furlong, into the unknown as he tackles 2m4f for the first time at Aintree, yet he remains 1/4 with Coral to win his match with aforementioned pair.
The longest trip Sprinter Sacre has previously tackled is the 2m3f which saw him lose his unbeaten status as a hurdler, whereas Cue Card and Flemenstar (respectively 8/1 and 5/1 to win Coral to win the three-way match bet) are both Grade 1 winners at 2m4f.
Cue Card’s only loss in a completed start over 2m4f came to Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth while Flemenstar was far too good for subsequent Gold Cup-second Sir Des Champs over the trip
The next most illustrious offspring of his sire Network – a very modest German flat performer – offer hope that his breathtaking elan will be undulled over the longer trip, with Rubi Light placed on nine of his 10 starts at 2m4f and Saint Are a Grade 1 Novice hurdle winner over 3m.
Aintree’s flatter track is theoretically conducive to winners over shorter trips at stamina-burning Cheltenham stepping up when they come to Liverpool, but the Champion Chase winner has followed up in the Melling just three times in the last 10 years.
Facing two peak-of-their-powers adversaries proven at a trip which, at least for know, remains unconquered by the Champion Chaser looks like his biggest test to date.