Sprinter Sacre heads 10 in the Champion Chase

Filed on 7 Mar 2013 @ 18:52

George supplements Mail De Bievre

Sprinter Sacre heads the 10 contenders for the Grade One Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham next Wednesday. Nicky Henderson's charge is set to go off the shortest-priced favourite for a Festival contest since Arkle at 1/10 in the 1966 Cheltenham Gold Cup with race sponsor Sportingbet making him a 1/4 shot.

The seven-year-old won all five of his starts over fences last season, including the Grade One Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase when beating Cue Card by seven lengths, and has continued in tremendous form this term with effortless displays in the Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and the rearranged Victor Chandler Chase at Cheltenham in January, scoring by 15 and 14 lengths respectively.

Henderson is also responsible for the reigning champion Finian's Rainbow, who got the better of 2011 hero Sizing Europe last year in an epic duel up the famous Cheltenham hill. He has been disappointing this season, trailing home last in both his starts at Ascot, while Sizing Europe is unbeaten in five starts since last year's Festival, bagging two Grade Ones and three Grade Twos in Ireland for trainer Henry de Bromhead.

Trainer Tom George, based at Slad near Cheltenham, has supplemented highly-regard French import Mail De Bievre at a cost of £17,500. The eight-year-old was one of the leading chasers in France in the spring of 2010 but injury has restricted him to only two starts since.

He made his debut for George in the Grade Two Denman Chase at Newbury on February 9, and, despite catching the eye with his excellent jumping when setting a strong pace, failed to stay the three-mile trip, coming home fifth.

George revealed: "Mail De Bievre's preparation has gone very well since his run at Newbury. We feel he has improved and is right where we want him.

"It was his first run for a year and a half and he shaped like a horse who needed the run. He's entitled to come on for it and I would not be worried about the bounce factor.

"Paddy (Brennan) was very impressed with him at Newbury and said he was never out of second gear, but you can not sustain that pace over three miles and he did very well to last for as long as he did.

"He has an unbelievably high cruising speed and he is a very exuberant jumper so that is why we wanted to come right back to two miles. It looks like everyone is playing for second behind Sprinter Sacre and we feel we have the horse that could fill that spot.

"We schooled him on better ground two days ago and Paddy felt he really enjoyed it. He is a really good mover but I don't think ground really matters to him."

The confirmations also include last season's Grade One Victor Chandler Chase winner Somersby, trained by Mick Channon, and Grade Two scorers Wishfull Thinking (Philip Hobbs) and Sanctuaire (Paul Nicholls).

The line up is completed by Realt Dubh, trained in Ireland by Noel Meade, and Richard Rowe's Tataniano, who won a Grade One contest at Aintree in April, 2010.

Ladies' Day gets underway with the John Oaksey National Hunt Chase over four miles. There are 30 horses going forward for the £85,000 contest including leading fancies Back In Focus, Rival d'Estruval and Buddy Bolero.

Some of the leading novice hurdlers in Britain and Ireland will clash in the £120,000 Grade One Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle (2.05pm) over two miles and five furlongs. The 24 acceptors feature hot favourite Pont Alexandre, trained by Irish champion Willie Mullins, The New One, from the stable of Nigel Twiston-Davies and Jonjo O'Neill's Taquin De Seuil.

Dynaste, trained by David Pipe, is among 21 contenders going forward for the £150,000 Grade One RSA Chase (2.40pm) over an extended three miles. Other notables include Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup victor Unioniste and the Willie Mullins pair Boston Bob and Back In Focus.

There is a traditionally strong Irish representation in the £60,000 Grade One Weatherbys Champion Bumper (5.15pm) with 12 of the 34 possibles trained in Ireland. Leading British hope Empiracle, trained by Jeremy Scott, also goes forward.

Large fields look assured for the £80,000 Grade Three Coral Cup (4.00pm) and the £75,000 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (4.40pm) with 112 and 51 confirmations respectively.

Filed on 7 Mar 2013 @ 18:52