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Sire De Grugy impresses but Cheltenham clash remains unlikely

One of the early talking-points this season has been whether Sire De Grugy is a feasible challenger to Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The answer is no.

However he is certainly shaping up as the second-best two mile chaser in Europe and is now 8/1 (from 16s) for the Cheltenham feature.

He became Gary Moore’s first ever Grade One winner on Saturday when he came clear after the last fence and ran on well to land the Tingle Creek.

The son of My Risk has now won six of his nine starts over fences and his beating of a back-to-form Somersby marks him down as a very good horse.

Bet on Sire De Grugy to win the Champion Chase at 8/1

Mick Channon’s runner – who was formerly trained by Henrietta Knight – won the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on his seasonal return.

However he had no answers to Sire De Grugy after the final fence.

Somersby was beaten 16 lengths by Sprinter Sacre when the pair met in last season’s Victor Chandler Chase compared to a four length winning distance for Sire De Grugy at the weekend.

A literal reading of that form suggests that an in-form Sprinter Sacre will beat Sire De Grugy every time.

Bet on Sprinter Sacre to win the Champion Chase at 1/3

Unfortunately racing fans were denied the opportunity to see a first clash between Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy.

Conjecture could have been nullified by facts were it not for Nicky Henderson taking things cautiously with his stable star.

A slightly worrying tracheal wash meant that the reigning Champion Chase winner skipped a trip to Esher but it’s worth remembering that he won the Tingle Creek last year.

Fans of Sire De Grugy may point out that his winning time was eight seconds quicker than that recorded by Sprinter Sacre.

However Saturday’s renewal was run on good ground and at a strong pace, whereas the previous year there was no real gallop on in soft ground and Henderson’s ace was heavily eased close home.

Sprinter Sacre won the 2013 renewal of the Champion Chase

The other problem for punters wanting to back Sire De Grugy for the Champion Chase is that he could easily swerve the Cheltenham Festival completely.

After his stable star was beaten at Cheltenham last month, Moore said: “He didn’t quite get up the hill. There were no real excuses.”

Following Saturday’s win he continued: “I’m going to have to take him [Sprinter Sacre] on somewhere and I’d like to do it at Kempton.

“Hopefully at Kempton he would get softer ground as he hasn’t really had his ground today.

“I want to look at the French programme book because I’d rather go to France with him than Cheltenham.”

A combination of the track and the ground then – rather than being scared of Sprinter Sacre – means that Sire De Grugy is far from the perfect each-way bet in the Champion Chase.

However the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on the 27th December could be a fantastic match-up between the horses and Sprinter Sacre will need to be at the top of his game on his belated reappearance if he is to maintain his 10-race unbeaten record over fences.