Sprinter Sacre in “great form” ahead of bid to regain Champion Chase crown
David Metcalf | February 23, 2016
Henderson optimistic ahead of 2016 Cheltenham Festival
Trainer Nicky Henderson is in an optimistic mood ahead of next month’s Cheltenham Festival, and reports Sprinter Sacre to be in the best form since landing the 2013 running of the Queen Mother Champion Chase in scintillating style.
Sprinter goes for the same race this year, the £350k feature on Wednesday, March 16th, and is currently 4/1 third-favourite with Coral for the Grade 1 contest run over 2m.
Henderson is also hoping to saddle up to five runners in the opening day highlight, the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, March 15th, plus Polly Peachum (7/1) in the Mares’ Hurdle.
Josses Hill (10/1) and Captain Conan (25/1) are his likely challengers for the Ryanair Chase, while Bobs Worth (33/1) and Whisper (25/1), plus maybe Different Gravey if supplemented, are being aimed at the Ryanair World Hurdle, the two main races on St Patrick’s Thursday, March 17th.
Henderson is the all-time leading trainer at The Festival with 53 successes, and has of The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award nine times.
He will have a large team for this year’s four day spectacular, with representatives in most if not all of the novice races and handicaps as well as the elite Grade 1 contests outlined above.
Sacre exciting and in great form
Speaking at a media day, the Seven Barrows handler said: “Sprinter Sacre excites me. He is at his best of this season now. He is in great form and we are happy with him.
“He is well and feisty – tanking along the gallops – I like him at the moment. His gallop on Saturday was great. I am not sure I need to take him to Kempton next week for another one – I am in two minds.
“He looks great – Nico (de Boinville) felt he was so good at Cheltenham (Shloer Chase) first time out this season – we did have him very fit as it was the acid test. He was probably fresher and better at Cheltenham than he was at Kempton at Christmas.
“He would be a sharper horse now than at Cheltenham the first time and I think he would be a better horse than at Kempton. Also he likes Cheltenham better than Kempton.
“The gap has narrowed between Sprinter Sacre and the herd but they haven’t caught him yet. He is nicely aggressive at the moment – he wants to do it – his attitude is great.
“I would be hopeful with him at The Festival, which we are able to get to this year on his terms, without having to rush anything. It has been a good journey. The appreciation he got from the crowd at Cheltenham in November was great.
“I said to Nico first time out – don’t disappoint him -if he wants to take you, great. He went up the hill and suddenly took off, like he used to, and the race was dead in 10 strides. 7
“He got a bit tired in the end but that is where we can find a little more. Somebody, some day has got to get upsides Un De Sceaux and see what happens. I hope it will be us.”
Five possibles for Champion Hurdle
The Lambourn trainer switched his attention to the opening day: “All five of mine in the Champion Hurdle can run and it is perfectly possible that all would go for the race, though that is not certain.
“Sign Of A Victory has to have very good ground – he is in good form but must have the right going. Where else do we go with him? He is too high in the handicap to run in the County Hurdle. The ground can change quite quickly at Cheltenham.
“Top Notch and Hargam look in good shape and have done lots of work. Top Notch was great at Kelso, the perfect preparation and everything is cool with him.
“I have also said that with him and Hargam if you have good ground, then Hargam might come out better, though with very soft ground it would be the other way around.
“Hargam had a gallop with My Tent Or Yours the other day at Kempton (February 12) and they will be going somewhere to work together this weekend.
“There are a lot of horses (at least a dozen) going to work at Kempton on the All-Weather a week today (February 29) like we always do.
Peace And Co over operation, My Tent of Yours faces big ask
“Peace And Co, who has had a cauterised palate operation, is over that and cantering away,” Henderson continued. “He has only just had a run. It is not the ideal preparation but we can get him there.
“He definitely made a noise at Sandown which we had not experienced before. Forget his first run of the season at Cheltenham – he ran like a headless chicken for a mile – and so Sandown was like his first run in a year.
“His back was sore – we have been trying to iron out a lot of things in one go. He can get there. We thought of running My Tent Or Yours in the Kingwell but the ground would have been detrimental. We talked about the bounce factor but we have eliminated that by not running him beforehand!
“It is a hell of a shock coming into a race after any lay-off but two years without a run into the Champion Hurdle is massive – we are realists and we would buy three weeks if we could, but we are going to have a go if all is well.
“We are having to condense things but he is tough and hardy. His gallop at Kempton was ideal and went very well. Can I retire if he wins the Champion Hurdle?”
“Hargam and Top Notch not just there to make up numbers”
“Peace And Co and My Tent Or Yours are the best two horses of mine in the Champion Hurdle, while Hargam and Top Notch are both very good and not just there to make up numbers,” Henderson added.
“Anything can happen in the next three weeks before The Festival. If any horse is not able to run at Cheltenham, then that is shattering for an owner who has dreamed of getting there.”
My Tent Or Yours is the shortest of the Henderson contingent Coral’s ante post betting for the Champion Hurdle at 7/1. Peace And Co is 14/1, Hargam and Top Nocth are both 20/1 whilst Sign Of A Victory is 25/1.
Coral are providing full coverage in the build-up and during the Cheltenham Festival, so check out our dedicated page for more news, tips and comment.