Cheltenham Heroes – Sire De Grugy to confirm he belongs in this camp
The unfortunate absence of reigning Champion Chase king Sprinter Sacre to injury has left Sire De Grugy as the highest rated of the 11 entrants for the Queen Mother Champion Chase and he has certainly taken the 2m division by the horns this season.
Victories have been secured on his last three starts, with two of these coming at Grade 1 level. His triumph in the Tingle Creek could prove especially noteworthy too, as this race has thrown up more Champion Chase winners in the last decade than any other.
George Bernard Shaw once stated “you cannot be a hero without being a coward” and although this doesn’t directly equate to Sire De Grugy, his previous Cheltenham performances have had an element of weakling to them.
His two previous visits have both ended in runner-up finishes, throwing away victory with sloppy jumping when conceding weight to Kid Cassidy on his last visit in November and prior to that, lacking pace in an uphill battle with Captain Conan in 2012.
There is no doubting that flatter right-handed tracks are more up Sire De Grugy’s street, but Desert Orchid was a similar mould of horse and he showed the bravery of a hero to overcome the doubters when winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1989.
Kasbah Bliss was unsuccessful on five Cheltenham visits (including when sent off odds-on for a World Hurdle) and 1992 Grand National favourite Docklands Express ran in three Cheltenham Gold Cups with a best finish of third.
A failure to win not only at Cheltenham, but specifically at the Festival, no doubt blunted their potential for hero status and this is not a camp that Sire De Grugy will want to be remembered in.
Some former Cheltenham heroes are among the expected opposition this year and victories over them will only enhance Sire De Grugy’s stature further.
One person who does not lack any faith in Sire De Grugy’s ability is his owner Sean Preston, a hairdresser from Cheshire, who is confident that the apple of his eye will prove a cut above his rivals.
He has been inundated with requests from fans wanting Sire De Grugy scarfs for the big race, and if he triumphs in the Champion Chase, the winners’ enclosure will be turned into a sea of blue and red as his legion of supporters welcome back their all-conquering hero and the party commences.