Sprinter Sacre was a hugely impressive winner of the 2012 Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival and confirmed the impression that he is a very special horse with a scintillating display in the 2012 Tingle Creek Chase . He is a warm order to add the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2013.
We had noted back in March that the 2012 Arkle Chase was run over a second faster than the following day's Queen Mother won by Finians's Rainbow. This was achieved in spite of the fact that jockey Barry Geraghty eased up Sprinter Sacre in the closing stages, that Sprinter Sacre jumped one more fence than Finian's Rainbow; and that the ground had dried out appreciably on the second day of the 2012 meeting.
Connections certainly seem to want to avoid Sprinter Sacre. The last two Champion Chase winners Finian's Rainbow and Sizing Europe are considering a crack at the Ryanair Chase and while it seems unlikely Finians Rainbow will go to the longer event Sizing Europe may well take up that option. Check out this recent Henry DeBromhead interview and judge for yourself.
Henderson gave this update reagrding his two horses at his open day:
Sprinter Sacre: "He's a natural athlete. He's as good a looking horse as you'll ever see. You put it all together, it doesn't always work. Bobs Worth is no oil painting, he's just a nice horse but when Sprinter comes along, it's a totally different ball game. He's just a gorgeous horse that has got a lot of natural talent. It's all just terribly easy for him. We won't be complacent as he has got to learn not to be. He hasn't been yet but he doesn't want to be. They all say he hasn't beaten anything but you can only beat what's put in front of you and he's just kept doing that and our job is to make sure that that continues."
Finian's Rainbow: "He's the reigning champion chaser. I would have to admit that was disappointing on Saturday ( in the Ascot Chase) although I hardly went in there full of confidence. Barry is absolutely adamant that he does not go in soft ground. He was the one that we felt had to have a race because he's only had one run this year and he's a different type of horse altogether to a Grandouet or a Bobs Worth. He desperately needed a run. OK, so you might say, I wish I hadn't done it but I was talking to Michael this morning and just said, I've watched it 100 times, maybe it wasn't quite as bad as it looked. He just doesn't operate on that. Barry said, about four or five out, he went to go long and it was the first time in his life he's ever let him down. And that is just ground, ground, ground. He won't go Gold Cup, that you can rest assured. I think there's every possibility he'll come back to two. But it's got to be good ground. That's our line of thought at the moment.
Cue Card is a horse that some fancy might give Sprinter Sacre a race but he remains in the Ryanair and is favourite for the latter race. The Ryanair certainly seems to be trainer Colin Tizzard's preferred option for his stable star.
Somersby was confirmed for the race on March 1 with trainer Mick Channon commenting: "He came out of Ascot grand and we've decided we're going to go for the big one with him - the Queen Mother. We were happy enough with his last run. He was beaten eight lengths. He travelled into the race very strongly, but it looked like he didn't stay. He moved into it well and then found nothing off the bridle. It's not the end of the world, he seems in good form so we'll go to Cheltenham and see how he gets on."
Sanctuaire is also an intended runner although Paul Nicholls was not confident: "He has not had the best of seasons. He is in the Champion Chase and basically,with Sprinter Sacre a red-hot favourite, we are playing for crumbs. He did not run particularly well in the Victor Chandler Chase at Cheltenham when the ground was very soft. He is never very good at this time of year. If the ground dries up and we ride him a bit handier, he could pick up a bit of place money on his best form in the Champion Chase. His Gold Cup is at Sandown at the end of the season when the ground is fast - he loves it there. Sanctuaire looks way better than he did in the middle of January. He is probably not a Grade One horse - he has won Grade Twos and that is his level."
Wishful Thinking is also a likely and looks a viable options in the without Sprinter Sacre markets. Tom George has also indicated that he intends to supplement his French import Mail De Bevre.
It is unfortunate for the race that Flemenstar misses out. At least jumps fans have the prospect of a Sprinter Sacre-Flemenstar showdown in Melling Chase at Aintree to keep the post-Cheltenham blues at bay.