Sprinter Sacre Heads Champion Chase 17
Sprinter Sacre, who recorded a scintillating victory in the Racing Post Arkle Chase at Cheltenham last year, heads 17 entries for the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase, the highlight of Ladies Day at The Festival on Wednesday, March 13.
The Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old is unbeaten in six starts over fences and recorded a third consecutive Grade One success on his seasonal return with a stunning display of jumping in the Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on December 8. Such has been Sprinter Sacre’s dominance of the two-mile division this term that he is set to be one of the shortest-priced favourites at this year’s Festival, despite two previous winners of the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase, Sizing Europe (2011) and Finian’s Rainbow (2012) also featuring among the entries.
Sizing Europe, one of four Irish-trained contenders, was second in last year’s Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase. Henry de Bromhead’s charge has been impressive in three appearances this season, most recently when beating the Robbie Hennessy-trained Rubi Light in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown on December 27.
Finian’s Rainbow, who is also trained by Henderson, ended last season with a decisive success over Wishfull Thinking, from the stable of Philips Hobbs, in the Grade One John Smith’s Melling Chase at Aintree but disappointed on his seasonal return at Ascot in November.
A trio of entries from Henderson is completed by the exciting novice chaser Simonsig, a facile winner of the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in March. The seven-year-old has won his two starts over fences by an aggregate of 84 lengths and could be the principal threat to Sprinter Sacre over the coming seasons.
Three-time Grade One scorer Flemenstar, who also holds an entry in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase, could drop back in distance for Peter Casey after coming home a close third over three miles in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28. He had previously displayed a high level of form over shorter trips, including when recording a facile victory in the two-mile Fortria Chase at Navan in November.
Cue Card may also return to two miles after finishing fifth in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on December 26. Colin Tizzard’s stable star was second to Sprinter Sacre in the Racing Post Arkle Chase and was the ready winner of the Sportingbet Haldon Gold Cup on his seasonal return at Exeter in November.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Sanctuaire could only finish third behind Sprinter Sacre and Kumbeshwar, who is trained by Alan King, in the Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase but the seven-year-old reversed the form with the runner-up with a straightforward success in the williamhill.com Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on December 27.
Nicholls, the most successful current trainer in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase with four wins to his name, has also engaged Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase third Edgardo Sol and Shooters Wood, who is unbeaten in three chase starts at Cheltenham.
William’s Wishes could step up in class after posting a pair of handicap chase wins for Evan Williams, while the Noel Meade-trained Realt Dubh may bid to improve on his fifth behind Finian’s Rainbow at The Festival last year.
The entries are completed by Somersby, who would be a rare Cheltenham Festival runner for Mick Channon, Grade One winner Tataniano, who is trained by Richard Rowe, and Free World, who has joined Tim Vaughan after spells with Paul Nicholls and Arthur Moore.
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