Sprinter Sacre will have his Festival prep run next SaturdayPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Sprinter set to star on scintillating Trials Day
SPRINTER SACRE is on course to star in a rescheduled Victor Chandler Chase at Cheltenham next Saturday after the Grade 1 contest was rescued from snowbound Ascot and added to a mouthwatering Festival Trials Day.
The contest, now worth £70,000, was speedily rearranged after Nicky Henderson, trainer of the Queen Mother Champion Chase favourite, told the BHA and Cheltenham: "If you run it, we'll be there."
Sprinter Sacre's Cheltenham Festival preparations had faced disruption but the highest-rated chaser in training will now have a workable 40-day gap between his final warm-up run and the Champion Chase, for which he is as short as 2-5 favourite.
A relieved Henderson said: "Sprinter Sacre will go to Cheltenham next Saturday. I only wanted to get one run into him before the Festival and now this is the plan. It's only a week later. It's a fantastic effort by everyone and we're all looking forward it. We're really grateful because we do need these races extremely badly.
"It wasn't long ago that moving races like this was unheard of. As soon as it was off Richard Russell (BHA jump race executive) and Stuart Middleton (BHA racing manager) were on to me, as well as Ascot and Cheltenham and everybody under the sun, all working away, and I said to them: 'If you run it, we'll be there'."
New entries will be taken for the Victor Chandler, which will be televised on Channel 4 along with the Grade 2 Argento Chase, Cleeve Hurdle and Neptune Novices' Hurdle after Cheltenham reshuffled their running order.
Victor Chandler contributed £20,000 towards their race with £40,000 from the Levy Board and £10,000 from Cheltenham, taking the value of the eight-race card, which also includes the Grade 2 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial and a Grade 3 handicap, to nearly £400,000.
Simon Claisse: Cheltenham moved quickly to resolve the problemPICTURE: Hugh Routledge
Cheltenham was under two inches of snow on Friday, although the course has been protected by frost covers since the start of the week. Clerk of the course Simon Claisse said: "The Victor Chandler will make a great addition to an already extremely strong card and it is a testament to the hard work of everyone involved that it has been rearranged promptly."
Cheltenham was not the only course hit by the weather on Friday and there will be no racing in Britain for the second successive day unless Lingfield and Kempton pass early-morning inspections to stage their all-weather cards.
Snow forced Wolverhampton and Lingfield to abandon Friday's meetings and Ascot, Haydock and Taunton have already called off their jumps action scheduled for Saturday.
The BHA has reacted to the disruption by announcing an extra all-weather fixture at Wolverhampton on Tuesday and an additional jumping card at Ayr on Wednesday.
Channel 4, which has reduced the duration of The Morning Line from an hour to 30 minutes on Saturday morning, plans to broadcast action from Lingfield and Kempton, but those tracks need to beat the freezing weather.
Lingfield inspects at 7am and clerk of the course Neil Mackenzie Ross said: "The forecast is for light snow to continue until the early hours of the morning and then from 4am we'll work the track. We plan to scrape off the snow, but we need it to stop.
"Once the snow has stopped we'll be in a better position to make a decision. We are due to be snow free during the day tomorrow."
Officials at Kempton will start working the track at 6am before inspecting at 7.30am. Sarah Dunster, overseeing matters while clerk of the course Barney Clifford is in France, said: "We're pretty confident as long as the weather doesn't do anything silly. There's no snow forecast."
Saturday's meeting at Naas is also subject to a morning inspection. Racecourse manager Tom Ryan, who will assess conditions at 8am, said: "If racing was today then the meeting would have gone ahead and we remain hopeful it will go ahead tomorrow.
"The issue is there are snow showers forecast in the morning and some of that snow could lodge. We should have a decision made before 8am."