Belfast Telegraph

Sire can crown top form by silencing critics

By Robert Fenton

It's the poorest Queen Mother Champion Chase for some time, especially with the non-appearance of defending champion Sprinter Sacre, although his presence would have made it a one-horse event.

And that opens the door for Sire de Grugy to exploit Sacre's absence – he only entered in expectation that Nicky Henderson star wouldn't line-up and so it has come to pass.

There are many doubters however for the simple reason that Sire de Grugy has never won at Cheltenham – second twice – and beaten by Kid Cassidy before Christmas when leading at the last.

He wasn't at his best and was conceding 10lb, so should turn that form around.

He has come on bundles from that, winning emphatically three times, including the Tingle Creek at Sandown where he had Somersby and Captain Conan, who renew rivalry, in arrears.

He was even better at Ascot and is the highest rated of the 11 runners. Former champion and twice runner-up, Sizing Europe is only 1lb behind but he's getting no younger at 12 and is fitted with blinkers today in the hope of improving his concentration. One thing in his favour will be the better ground.

Willie Mullins' Avrika Ligeonniere ran a stinker in last year's Arkle and clearly doesn't like going left-handed and it may be the second-season chaser Hinterland who provides the main threat.

Thankfully, the Sire 'cribbers' have done the punters a favour because the doubts expressed, have seen the best horse Gary Moore has ever handled, drift in the market to as big as 5/2. On all form, he should be no more than 6/4 and that means taking advantage.

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