In 2013 when SPRINTER SACRE won the Queen Mother Champion Chase you’d have been forgiven for thinking that this black aeroplane of a race horse could never be beaten in a race over two miles. But well-documented health issues the following season meant this supremely talented chaser spent some time in the wilderness, with his legion of fans not really knowing whether he would return to his best again.
In last year’s Champion Chase he didn’t find anything and was disappointingly pulled up, but in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham back in November, Sprinter Sacre looked back to something approaching his best in terms of flamboyance and enjoyment for jumping. He beat Somersby by fourteen lengths in impressive style and set hearts of many dreaming of glory again come March.
Next time out at Kempton, Sprinter Sacre was required to dig deep, to battle, qualities he seemed to be lacking last season. Against a determined Sire De Grugy, he pulled out all the stops in a pulsating finish to land the Desert Orchid Chase. If his first run at Cheltenham was an indication that he still had the flare, this win was a positive sign that he isn’t afraid of a battle either. Now a ten-year-old and facing a formidable young buck in the shape of Un De Sceaux, Sprinter Sacre will need to be at his absolute best to regain his crown, but the race could very much be run to suit him and we know he has the quality.
Un De Sceaux is a no nonsense horse who we know will go out in front and look to make all the running. But he will certainly have the attentions of Special Tiara to test his jumping for the early part of the race. If Nico De Boinville can get Sprinter Sacre jumping and enjoying himself, he should be able to get on the quarters of the favourite as they approach the top of the hill. At this point, backers of the former champion will be hoping he can intimidate Un De Sceaux and put his jumping and resilience under a lot of pressure. If Nicky Henderson’s star brings his A-Game to the table, you can be sure the Willie Mullins horse has never faced a chaser of that quality over fences and he is a very likely winner.
You have to respect defending champion Dodging Bullets who is sure to improve on his seasonal reappearance and of course former champion Sire De Grugy. But there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the stands if Sprinter Sacre can return to the winners enclosure here and he has given some good indications so far this season that he is being primed well for the occasion.