Sprinter Sacre measures another fence perfectly at Sandown on SaturdayPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Superstar Sacre simply stunning in Tingle Creek
Report: Sandown, Saturday
Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase (Grade 1) 2m, 4yo+
IT WAS billed as a clash between two potential superstars but one soared higher and mightier than the other as Sprinter Sacre blew apart the field at Sandown on Saturday.
Sanctuaire, winner of both of his starts over fences at Sandown last season in flamboyant, buccaneering fashion, tore off into a big lead with Sprinter Sacre a little keen in second. The rest of the runners and riders were left well in arrears to get a good look at the spectacle in front of them.
Sanctuaire glided over the first of the fences in the back straight while Sprinter Sacre made a small error - brushing through the top of the fence and landing untidily on the other side.
But it proved to be a complete aberration from Nicky Henderson's superstar chaser and as he pinged the next six fences down the back straight, including a magnificent leap at the final obstacle, there was a sense of inevitability about what would happen.
However ominious it looked, the way Sprinter Sacre settled the race took the breath away. Taking the lead at the third-last fence, the mighty six-year-old swatted away his supposed challenger and quickly confirmed himself in a different league.
He charged over the final two fences and he and Barry Geraghty were able to enjoy the raptourous cheers of the crowd as they cantered to an awesome 15-length victory.
It was a first win in the Tingle Creek for Henderson, whose winner easily sits alongside the likes of Kauto Star, Moscow Flyer, Master Minded and Flagship Uberalles on the roll of honour for this prestigious contest.
Henderson said: "Sanctuaire was always going to go a pace that would test anybody's fitness and that was a right, screaming Sandown two-mile chase.
"Barry said the ground was as soft as he would ever want to go on but he's just class. I would say he will go Victor Chandler and then Cheltenham."
Tired and vanquished, Sanctuaire faded up the hill and was passed by Kumbeshwar, who took second at 25-1.
Paul Nicholls: "we had to try"PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Bookmakers took evasive action after the race with Paddy Power and BetVictor both cutting last season's Racing Post Arkle winner to 1-2 (from evens) for the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls was pleased enough with the run of Sanctuaire but admitted that his runner was just not good enough.
"He's run a nice enough race and we had to give it a try, but what's happened is what everyone expected to happen," he said. "He got tired, but he just wasn't good enough - it's as simple as that.
"The ideal race for him is going to be the Celebration Chase, back here at the end of the season. He'll be much better on faster ground."
Kumbeshwar seperated the big two at the line and jockey Wayne Hutchinson said: "He's between a rock and a hard place but that was perfect. He jumped super again and built on Haydock. He's as tough as old boots and he'll never let you down."