Nicky Henderson is hoping Sprinter Sacre can succeed where stablemate Finian’s Rainbow failed in tomorrow’s Racing Post Arkle Chase at Cheltenham.
Sprinter Sacre is set to face just five rivals in the two-mile novice championship, and arrives on the back of three ultra-impressive wins over fences.
The six-year-old was an easy scorer on his debut at Doncaster in December before demolishing former top-class hurdler Peddlers Cross at Kempton over Christmas, although the runner-up was found to have problems afterwards.
A six-length win in record time in Newbury’s Game Spirit Chase last month sealed his reputation as red-hot Arkle favourite.
However, Henderson is concerned that his keen style of racing could work against him, as it did with Finian’s Rainbow who could finish only second in the Arkle in 2011.
“He’s looked like a horse we hope might be a bit special. He hasn’t beaten anything, but you have to look at his times. He beat the course record at Newbury and he was just beating the clock all on his own,” said Henderson.
“He’s a classy, good-looking horse and I think he knows it.
“The one worry is that Finian’s Rainbow tried to do the same thing last year (go off quickly) and he got mugged. But Sprinter Sacre is a two-miler through and through.”
Sprinter Sacre himself was beaten at last year’s Festival when third to Al Ferof in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but the Seven Barrows handler expects him to fare better up the famous Cheltenham hill this time.
“I’m not quite sure why he didn’t get up the hill last year, but I think he will (this time),” Henderson added.
Barry Geraghty again takes the mount, and makes no secret of the regard in which he holds him.
He said: “He seems to have it all, he has pace, and he jumps really well. He has so much scope, he ticks every box.
“I have no doubts (about the hill), he ran keen last year and was probably in front earlier than ideal.
“He may get to the front early this year as well, we’ll have to wait and see, but with age on his side and the way he jumps I don’t think the hill will be an issue.
“It’s a very hot race, there’s no doubt about that, but this fellow is the most exciting horse I’ve ridden since Moscow Flyer. He’s hard to describe he’s so good.”