Sprinter Sacre rolled back the years when winning the Champion Chase
PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
EXPECT Sunday’s headlines to be dominated by the outcome of the trainers’ title and Richard Johnson’s first jockeys’ championship, but Sprinter Sacre will steal some of the spotlight if he can cap a remarkable season with victory in the only Grade 1 at Sandown.
Written off by many after a finishing a six-length second in the Grade 1 Celebration Chase 12 months ago, Sprinter Sacre has been rejuvenated by Nicky Henderson this term and thrilled a packed Cheltenham when he bolted up in the Shloer Chase in November.
A gutsy victory over Sire De Grugy, who is again in opposition this afternoon, in Kempton’s Desert Orchid Chase followed before the popular ten-year-old almost brought the house down when powering away from the odds-on favourite Un De Sceaux for his second Champion Chase at Cheltenham 38 days ago.
Henderson said: “He’s had a great time since Cheltenham and we’re very happy. He looks great, his work’s been good and he’s schooled beautifully, so for all the excuses I’ve been trying to find – touch wood – I can’t find one.
“Of course we want to run, but we’re always going to be nervous about it. He wants good ground, which he’ll get.”
Dodging Bullets also well
The Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux provides the biggest threat to Sprinter Sacre, although he would not want conditions too quick, while last year’s Champion Chase hero Dodging Bullets may need further.
Dodging Bullet’s trainer Paul Nicholls, who also runs Grand Annual winner Solar Impulse and Ulck Du Lin as he bids to retain his trainers’ title, said: “Dodging Bullets seems very well, but if I’d known Vautour wasn’t running in the Grade 2 I’d have probably run him in that as the trip might have suited him better.
“If he ran to his very best he’d be in the mix, but he’s been out of form this year.
“The other two are playing for crumbs but will like the better ground and will give a good accounts of themselves.”
Sire De Grugy better than at Cheltenham
Dual Tingle Creek winner Sire De Grugy, whose connections would have been hoping for more then the 4mm of overnight rain, trails Sprinter Sacre 2-1 in their meetings and was 67 lengths behind his old rival at Cheltenham last month.
“He’ll go to Sandown a better horse than he was in the Champion Chase,” his trainer Gary Moore said yesterday.
“At Cheltenham he was nowhere near his best and I don’t know why, but he’s working very well again. He’s on great terms with himself and loves Sandown. The conditions look perfect for Sprinter Sacre and I’m hoping we get some rain.”
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