Hinterland and Grandouet cut for Arkle Trophy after Sandown Trial
Sprinter Sacre may not have been at Sandown on Saturday but there were still plenty of early Cheltenham clues on a top quality card. Perhaps the most significant trial was the Grade 1 Novices’ Chase won by Hinterland from the fast finishing Grandouet.
Trainer Paul Nicholls enjoyed a magnificent day with big-race victories at Sandown and Aintree and Hinterland jumped his way into prominence in the Arkle Trophy market. Jonjo O’Neill’s Taquin Du Seuil was sent off favourite despite reservations about whether he would be effective at the two-mile trip.
A mistake at the second of the Railway fences effectively put paid to his chances but Hinterland was always travelling comfortably for Daryl Jacob and asserted between the last two fences. Barry Geraghty had given Grandouet a clear sight of his fences after falling on his chasing debut and he ran on strongly to get within a neck at the line.
Hinterland and Grandouet are now 12-1 for the Arkle behind 3-1 favourite Champagne Fever. It was always going to be difficult to fill the void left by Sprinter Sacre in the Tingle Creek Chase but Sire De Grugy did his Champion Chase prospects no harm with a decisive victory.
Gary Moore’s gelding put in a much more accomplished round of jumping than when beaten at Cheltenham last time and beat off the challengers of Somersby and Captain Conan. He is now 8-1 third favourite for the Champion Chase behind Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig.
Sire De Grugy may clash with Nicky Henderson’s stable star in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas. Gary Moore felt that he may have been even more impressive if the ground had been softer.
Arvika Ligeonniere earned a 16-1 quote for the Champion Chase after easing to a facile success in the John Durkan Memorial Chase on Sunday. The race had already been depleted by the late withdrawal of Flemenstar and was virtually ended as a contest when Sir Des Champs fell at the third fence.
Sir Des Champs returned unscathed and remains 5-1 second favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He could turn out again for the Lexus Chase on December 28th which may also be the target for Flemenstar.