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The Inside Track on the Champion Chase

Fortunately the will-he, won’t-he run saga surrounding Sprinter Sacre’s participation did not last into March, with trainer Nicky Henderson calling it a day for the season with his top-rated star towards the end of last month.

Disappointing as the absence of the top-rated chaser from the Festival is, it did at least bring some clarity to the Queen Mother Champion Chase market, although only after the exchange players had nicked a few quid ahead of the news being made public.

The horse to profit most from the ‘Black Aeroplane’s’ troublesome campaign so far is Sire De Grugy, this admirable star of the Gary Moore operation having picked up Grade 1 wins at Sandown and Ascot. His critics say Cheltenham is not his track, but two second places there hardly smack of a horse out of his comfort zone at Prestbury Park, and he would be a worthy winner in my opinion.

However, in reality something is stopping me nailing my colours to his mast. On the day he may well drift to a price that tempts me in, but at his current odds I’m looking elsewhere. Arvika Ligeonniere and Benefficient are closely matched on their Irish form, although the latter has the option of the longer Ryanair Chase, and the former has to overcome the disappointment of being pulled-up in last year’s Arkle.

Captain Conan? Well held by the favourite. Al Ferof? Another for the Ryanair. Kid Cassidy? Didn’t come on for his autumn verdict over Sire De Grugy. Baily Green? Not good enough, and without a win since November 2012. Sizing Europe? Of some interest on the basis of his second place in the race 12 months ago, but surely past his best. Alderwood? Twice a Festival winner, we do need to forgive him his recent runs, but at the prices that could be a risk worth taking. But then again, the recent vibes have not been entirely positive about this one, so let’s move on.

So following a process of elimination that Sherlock Holmes would be proud of, that leads us to Hinterland. We need the safety net of non-runner, money back as this second season chaser could run in the previous day’s Arkle, but if connections do line up here instead, their boldness could be well rewarded.

Selection – Hinterland