Sprinter Sacre: headline act on the second day of the Cheltenham FestivalPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Sprinter Sacre bids for Champion Chase glory
SPRINTER SACRE is set to go off the shortest-priced festival favourite since Arkle in 1966 when he bids for the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday.
The Nicky Henderson-trained superstar is 2-7 to add to his victory in last year’s Racing Post Arkle and compound the bookies’ woe after a string of widely-backed winners on the opening day of the festival.
Henderson said: "He's in good form and everything has gone well and smoothly, so here we go again. You have to keep your fingers crossed."
Just six rivals are set to challenge Sprinter Sacre’s supremacy at Cheltenham, including Tom George’s French import Mail De Bievre, who is expected to ensure a decent pace in the race.
Henderson added: "It will be nice to get a lead for a bit because this fellow can tank a bit. Of course there is extra pressure through expectation, but we are very lucky to have him so have to put up with that sort of pressure."
Nico de Boinville, Sprinter Sacre’s workrider, told The Morning Line on Wednesday about his first impressions of the horse, now seven years old.
"I only got on him when he was a three-year-old; he was a raw, big shell of a horse, but he always gave you that inkling that there was something there, something a bit special," he said.
"I suppose [I first knew how good he was] that first bumper when he touched off a horse called King Of The Light, Paul Nicholls’s horse, and then he went to Ayr and rocked up there and we knew we had something quite special."
De Boinville added: "It’s the way he goes about it that is so impressive. He’s so quick."
Henry de Bromhead’s Sizing Europe is the 5-1 second favourite and considered the horse most likely, if any can, to challenge Sprinter Sacre.
His trainer told The Morning Line: "His record over the course and distance is so good. He’s representing the previous generation of two mile chasers with [last year’s winner] Finian’s Rainbow out and we want to go and give it a go.
"We know our lad’s a very good horse, he’s obviously a little bit older now so we’ll give it a go and see how we get on.
"He’s four from four [this season]. We were running him over two miles to two miles four. We know he stays well and hopefully they’ll go a good gallop.
"He’s effective on any ground; in the early days his preference was for better ground but he’s effective on everything."
The going at Cheltenham is good to soft, soft in places.