Sprinter Sacre A Great Bet For Cheltenham

Carl Harris turns his attention to Cheltenham and says get on Sprinter Sacre….

Now Christmas and the celebrations are out of the way, we can start thinking about Cheltenham, the festive period as far as National Hunt racing is concerned. Four days of top class National Hunt Racing and one of the highlights of the year!

Sprinter Sacre

On Saturday Sprinter Sacre took his first steps back to regaining his Champion Chase title, finishing second at Ascot. Opinion is split as to whether he showed anything to suggest he can win the Champion Chase again. Personally I find the doom and gloom merchants to be talking rubbish!

Yes he did not win, yes he was beaten by a horse who on ratings is 20 pounds below him, but Sprinter Sacre set such a standard, a standard never matched by any other horse, he is super equine, but to expect him to run to that standard first time out is like expecting to win the lottery without buying a ticket!

If you judge Sprinter Sacre’s return for what it was, by normal standards then it was encouraging. He ran to a mark of about 165 I would suggest. The race was won in a good time, given conditions and Dodging Bullets won because Sprinter Sacre did not get home. He came there to win travelling then he ran out of gas. He either blew up or suffered a bleed, what the equine vets call an¬†epistaxis.

I like to think I understand a bit about horses. I would pitch my knowledge above that of the layman but of course way below that of the pro’s like Nicky Henderson, who for me is head and shoulders the best in the business. ¬†he knows this horse inside out and therefore the ONLY person to listen to is, in my view Nicky Henderson. He was speaking on ATR on Sunday;

“Most importantly he’s fine this morning. He’s been out and looked very perky. He was great, he trotted up, was very bouncy and full of it. I think it’s safe to say he enjoyed himself,” the Seven Barrows handler told At The Races.

“He’s sound and his legs are good. He ate up and did all the right things. No damage done which is always a relief.

“It was great to see him out and everyone was pleased with what he did.”

Asked about the post-race bleeding, Henderson admitted: “We’d have preferred it not to have happened. There was a show of blood in his nostrils when he was being routine tested and we scoped him after that.

“We don’t want to see it. It’s not ideal, but on the scope there, the significance of the score didn’t seem to be too dramatic. It was probably acceptable.

“There was no mucus which was important – there was quite a bit of Ascot racecourse [ie mud in the scope], which there always will be with kickback and mud flying.

“They are bound to have a little bit, all sorts of things get breathed in as you can imagine, and there was a bit of blood there.

“I think we can accept that. It didn’t affect him or his performance.

“We did weigh him and it depends how far you go back with his weight, but he was comparative to where he has been in the past. He was more than 80% fit – you can’t come into a Grade One less fit than that – but there is bound to be improvement.

“He didn’t blow up as such, but what he did do was get tired. The legs are going to get tired.

“They set a searching gallop yesterday and went out to test his fitness. That is perfectly fair game. AP went a good gallop there [on Somersby]. I’m not a great stopwatch man but the time was respectable – I’m not surprised, they went a good gallop and they are good horses.

“There is more to come and there is improvement. We weren’t pretending he was back to his very best.

“In the autumn we knew he wasn’t, but gradually it’s been coming.

“You’ve got to let a horse find his best form. It’s a work in progress, if you like. He’s been pleasing us. He’s gradually progressed, progressed, progressed.

“Newbury (where he worked last month) was a huge step forward and yesterday was another one.”

“There is no other race he can run in between now and the Festival except for Newbury (the Game Spirit Chase),” he said.

“We’re hardly going to go to Newbury in three weeks’ time. That would be suicide.

“You could go to a racecourse. I don’t think he particularly needs to, but we could take quite a lot of the Cheltenham horses that are not going to run again before the Festival. There would be quite a few to go to the racecourse.

“I wouldn’t rule it out, but I wouldn’t rule it in at the moment.

“What we are definitely going to do is have a quiet week to 10 days and then we will start the build-up. That is why the timing of yesterday was perfect for us.

“He’s had a fairly intense build-up which is why he was more than 80% fit. He was probably nearer 90%.

“He just got tired yesterday and we feel that’s perfectly acceptable, going that gallop in that ground in his first race really since Punchestown the year before last as he only went for a mile at Kempton (in December 2013).

“Realistically I was very satisfied and pleased to see him back.

“There was that moment turning in when you just thought a miracle was going to happen. It would have been fantastic.

“I think it’s realistic for him to regain his crown at Cheltenham. We have lots to do.

“Dodging Bullets won the Tingle Creek and has now put up two cracking performance. We’ve got to find a couple of lengths. You’d like to think we’ve got that in our pocket somewhere.

“Now you’ve got Sire De Grugy to come as well and then the final piece of the jigsaw [would be] for us all to meet together in March.

“It could be one of the great races. That day we’ve got to be 100% or even more. I think we’re on track.

“It would be great if they all meet and it would be one of the spectacles of the Festival.”

Sprinter Sacre’s rider Barry Geraghty was delighted with the performance and felt his mount just needed the match practice after such a long lay-off.

“He jumped nicely, but he wouldn’t have jumped as fluently as he would normally,” he said.

“He was a bit ring-rusty, but he ran a nice race, he travelled well and looked like the winner and just got a bit tired.

“I’d be very positive. I thought he ran a good race, he was only beaten three lengths and Dodging Bullets is a better horse than we thought.

“We all knocked the Tingle Creek because it wasn’t the hottest race ever, but yesterday rode a good race and I’d say he stepped up on his Sandown form.

“I was hoping his class would get him through. You can never take things for granted, but if you’d asked three or four months ago would I be happy with yesterday, I’d say I’d be delighted and I was.

“The blood issue would be Nicky’s department, not mine, and if he’s not worried about it I’m sure he’ll be able to rectify it.

“Coming first or second made no difference. He had the race and had a good practice. That was the reason for going yesterday rather than waiting for the Game Spirit as it would give him more time, an extra couple of weeks, to prepare him for the day.”

That to me is the real story! To me I am without doubt that Sprinter Sacre can win the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, in no doubt at all. He will obviously be fitter, stronger and sharper and I tell you this, there is no trainer, not in my lifetime anyway that could prepare a horse better than Nicky Henderson. No trainer, with a license has anywhere near the number of festival winners than the great man and at the price, Sprinter Sacre is the best bet available for the whole 2015 Cheltenham Festival.

So what price is Sprinter Sacre for the Champion Chase?

as of now Sprinter Sacre is 5/2 generally BUT VC BET go 3/1, which I have to say is a HUGE PRICE! However they are NOT offering this NON RUNNER NO BET, so I would rather take 5/2 and get my money back if he does not run. That is the sensible bet. Cheltenham is close enough to get excited about but 8 or 9 weeks is a long time where horses and well being is concerned!

But hear this, 5/2 is a MAXIMUM BET and I think that confidence will increase in this superb horse and that the price will steadily strengthen up! GET ON the great Sprinter Sacre for the 2015 Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, March 11 2015.

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