Kempton preview: Desert Orchid Chase (14.00)
David Metcalf | December 24, 2015
Former two mile champions Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre lock horns in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton (14.00) on Sunday, and the latter looks a worthy favourite to come out on top.
Trained by Nicky Henderson, Sprinter won his first 10 starts over fences in facile fashion, and looked one of the best 2m chasers seen for a long time when landing the 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on the bridle by 19 lengths.
The nine-year-old went on to land Grade 1 contests at Aintree and Punchestown before suffering his first defeat over fences when pulled-up in this contest.
It was then a long road back for the horse dubbed the “Black Aeroplane”, and although below his brilliant best in three runs last season he ran a blinder first time up when chasing home subsequent Queen Mother winner Dodging Bullets in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot.
Sprinter Sacre has made sensational return to form
Many thought it was time for connections to retire Sprinter Sacre, but Henderson maintained the old sparkle remained and they decided to persevere.
Their commitment, and patience, was rewarded when Sprinter made a stunning return to action in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham last month.
The son of Network looked a totally different specimen physically compared to last season, and after racing with plenty of zest stormed clear to win impressively by 14 lengths from Somersby.
It was a breathtaking display in which Sprinter Sacre showed all his old swagger, and he is currently 7/2 with Coral to regain his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Sprinter has to be winning this to justify those odds and, if turning up in the same form as in the Shloer, should do so with the minimum of fuss.
Sire De Grugy has something to find
Sire De Grugy won this in 2013 when Sprinter was pulled-up, and bounced back to form last time out to win a second Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.
Gary Moore’s stable star, who won the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2014, travelled and jumped well throughout, finding plenty on the run-in to beat Special Tiara by 3/4 of a length.
It was a massive step back in the right direction for the nine-year-old, following a disappointing display when only fifth on his reappearance at Exeter in the Haldon Gold Cup, and Moore has clearly done wonders to get him to back to something like his best.
However, on official ratings Sire De Grugy has 4lb to find on Sprinter, so the nine-year-old is going to have to step up again and put in a monster performance to lower the colours of that rival.
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