Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Sacre seeks Champion crown

Nicky Henderson with his pride and joy, Sprinter Sacre

Nicky Henderson admits he will be disappointed if Sprinter Sacre is beaten in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham today.

The seven-year-old is many punters' idea of the banker of the week and has been long odds-on for the two-mile showpiece since the ante-post book was opened.

"He knows he's good looking, he knows he's good - it really is 'look and watch me'. It's all flashy and show. I'm never going to say he's the best (I have trained) - I don't know who was - but he's right up there," said the Seven Barrows trainer.

Unbeaten in seven races over fences, including the Arkle Trophy at last year's Festival, Sprinter Sacre has understandably frightened away a lot of the opposition. He still has decent rivals to beat, headed by the 2011 Champion hero Sizing Europe, and Henderson is not taking anything for granted.

Henderson added: "He's something to watch and, from Barry's (Geraghty) point of view, he said he's the most spectacular thing he's ever sat on. He enjoys it, but I don't. The pressure is on because everybody will expect one of his flashy performances and I hope he can deliver again.

"He finds it ridiculously easy, but Cheltenham is Cheltenham and the course takes plenty of jumping. He is a hugely talented natural athlete. He and Simonsig are two of the best work horses I have ever had. Sprinter Sacre is the one we would be disappointed with if he doesn't win."

While a lot of trainers decided not to take on Sprinter Sacre, Tom George took the plunge and supplemented Mail De Bievre at the confirmation stage.

The French-bred eight-year-old showed plenty of pace on his British debut in the Denman Chase over three miles last month before fading into fifth place behind Gold Cup fancy Silviniaco Conti.

George reports Mail De Bievre to have benefited immensely for the outing.

The trainer said: "He's come on a lot since he went to Newbury. He's very sharp and I'm looking forward to him running. He's able and very ready for the big day. He'll make it a good gallop, that is one thing we do know."