Sprinter Sacre “spot on” ahead of Champion Chase challenge
Trainer Nicky Henderson reports stable star Sprinter Sacre to be in “seriously good shape” ahead of the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but is hopeful rather than confident that he can regain his 2m chasing crown.
The nine-year-old romped to a facile 19 length success over Sizing Europe in the 2013 running of the contest and went on to land Grade 1 contests at Aintree and Punchestown to achieve an official rating of 188.
The gelding dubbed the “black aeroplane” looked one of the best 2m chasers seen for a long time and have the world at his feet.
However, Sprinter lost his unbeaten record over fences when pulled-up in the Desrt Orchid Chase at Kempton in December 2013 and found to be suffering from an irregular heartbeat.
The condition forced Sprinter to miss the whole of last season, and it’s been a long road back for connections.
However, Sprinter showed that he still retained plenty of ability on his first run since Kempton when finishing a three length runner-up to Dodging Bullets in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at Ascot last month.
It was a highly promising comeback after 386 days on the sidelines, and Henderson has been delighted with the way he has progressed since.
Speaking a a media day at his stables, the Seven Barrows handler said: “We are as good as we have been for a very, very long time with Sprinter Sacre. He is right there – spot on. We have had our run and he has done plenty of work since and he does not need to go to a racecourse for a gallop.
“As always the better the ground, the better for him. He travelled well at Ascot – like the best horse in the race – and just got tired at the second last.
“We knew he had to have a run and it was there or nowhere. The ground was not bad and I cannot make that an excuse. They went a right good gallop and set out to test him so it could have been a kinder race for him. He seems in good shape and since Ascot has been great.
“We have been waiting for that spark which wasn’t there last year – you cannot force it to happen and have to wait. He was absolutely, ridiculously unbeatable a couple of years ago I am not saying we are totally unbeatable next month, but he is in seriously good shape. He has done everything we have asked him to do. It will be a great race. Sire De Grugy has a crown we want back. I think we have a good chance – I am not confident but pretty hopeful.”
Sprinter Sacre is Coral’s 3/1 joint-favourite, with Sire De Grugy, for the feature contest on Wednesday, March 11th.
If successful, Sprinter will be the first since the mighty Moscow Flyer (2003 and 2005) to come back and regain the 2m chasing crown.