Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Sprinter Sacre just champion at Cheltenham

CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 13:  Barry Geraghty on Sprinter Sacre romps home in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 13, 2013 in Cheltenham, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: Barry Geraghty on Sprinter Sacre romps home in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 13, 2013 in Cheltenham, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Sprinter Sacre confirmed his superstar status with a stunning victory in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Nicky Henderson's seven-year-old stretched his unbeaten record over fences to eight races with another power-packed display in the feature race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.

Barry Geraghty's partner was sent on his way the 1-4 favourite, and easily justified those cramped odds in front of an expectant grandstand.

Sizing Europe (6-1) finished second, but was beaten out of sight

Sprinter Sacre has over the last few seasons gained the moniker "the big, black aeroplane", and it is easy to see why.

The Caroline Mould-owned chaser evoked memories of the two-mile greats such as Moscow Flyer with some extraordinary leaps over the Cheltenham fences.

Henderson's inmate was in third for most of the early exchanges as the supplemented Mail De Bievre and Sizing Europe took the field along at a moderate pace.

Sizing Europe, the 2011 Queen Mother winner and runner-up last year, took the lead four out, but was swiftly joined by the winner at the next fence.

There was little in it at that stage, but that was as close as the race came to being a genuine contest.

A big jump at the penultimate fence sealed the deal as Geraghty's companion sauntered 19 lengths clear without coming off the bridle.

Sprinter Sacre was providing Henderson, the winning-most trainer at the Cheltenham Festival, with back-to-back Queen Mother triumphs after Finian's Rainbow struck in 2012.

Geraghty said: "He's a beautiful horse to ride. I've never ridden one as natural to jump. Things would have to go very wrong to go wrong.

"Once he's healthy and well, you get him relaxed and into a nice rhythm. He does the rest and he's a pleasure to ride.

"I've ridden some brilliant horses over the years, but the ease and the grace that he does it with sets him apart."

Henderson, greeting his 49th Festival winner, said: "He's just very special. (I'm relieved) It's over.

"He just has that way of doing it.

"He finds it ridiculously easy - he just loves doing it.

"He loves to attack his fences. We are very lucky to have him.

"I hope people have enjoyed watching him.

"We've talked about Punchestown, and I'm sure Richie Galway (Punchestown manager) would like us to talk about it a bit more. He is a two-miler and I don't think Aintree really will be him.

"There's a nice Grade One in Ireland and maybe we go for that and then wrap him up."

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