CHELTENHAM: Champion cruise as Sprinter simply stunning

Sprinter Sacre, arguably the most exciting horse in National Hunt racing, produced a dazzling display of raw power to destroy the opposition in the Grade 1 Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham yesterday.

Barry Geraghty didn’t have to move a muscle, as Nicky Henderson’s multi-talented seven-year-old beat the champion of two years ago, Sizing Europe, by 19 lengths.

It is quite amazing to think that so good is Sprinter Sacre, given we were watching one of the major highlights of the week, that this was essentially a steering job for Geraghty.

Mail de Bievre cut out a generous pace, but five from home Andrew Lynch made his move, allowing Sizing Europe to lead.

Sprinter Sacre was soon in his slipstream, but guessed at the fourth last. It made no difference whatsoever and he was still doing no more than half speed in behind.

Geraghty told his partner to join issue over the third last and, soon after, the winner coasted ahead.

The packed stands erupted. Sprinted Sacre had it won approaching the turn in, Sizing Europe losing his footing briefly. Sprinter Sacre popped nonchalantly across the last two fences and strode up the line with any amount in hand.

Geraghty punched the air, well aware he had just been part of something really extraordinary.

Sprinter Sacre was returned at 1-4, which was of little use to the vast majority of punters. But that was of no consequence and he got a tumultuous reception.

“I’ve never ridden a horse that does it all so easily,” said Geraghty. Massive praise indeed from a man who rode one off the greatest two-mile chasers of all time, Moscow Flyer.

“He has such power and scope, that gives him the time he needs. He’s like a top footballer, like Pele on the ball, who used to do it all easily, because his speed, power and skill gave him the time to do it.

“He made a mistake at the ditch, the first he’s ever made, but knew what he was doing and it wasn’t really a mistake. He absolutely winged the next and winged the last.’’ Geraghty, understandably, refused, not for the first time, to rate Sprinter Sacre better than Moscow Flyer, but you suspect thinks that is the case.

He said: “I’m not saying this lad is better than Moscow Flyer, but the ease with which he does everything sets him apart.’’

Henderson, who was like a demented octopus watching the race, said: “You always hope for the best, but there are fences to jump and you can never be sure.

“He has such an easy way of doing it and today was fantastic, he loves racing. We’re very lucky to have him.

“Sometimes the crowd gets something special to watch and I hope they have enjoyed watching him, although I don’t know if I did.

“He has an aura about him and knows he’s good. Barry enjoys it, the horse enjoys it and I hate it, but it’s fun afterwards.

“He’s nearly the perfect racehorse. You would have to say that was his best performance. We were well aware that anything barring stunning wouldn’t keep people happy, but that was stunning.

“We’ve talked about Punchestown but we’ll see. There is a nice Grade 1 there, then he could have the summer off and come back and defend his title.’’ Henry de Bromhead said of Sizing Europe: “We’ve had a go and served it to him, but have come out of it second best.

“He seemed to stumble on the crossing, but the race was over at that point and it had no effect on the result.

“The winner is a phenomenal horse, but we’re proud of our man too, we’ve still finished second in a Champion Chase.

“Sizing Europe has been the horse of a lifetime for me and I’ve had many unforgettable moments with him.

“He’s not getting any younger, but has won plenty this season and it’s likely we’ll head to the Punchestown festival with him.’’ But for the Punchestown executive, the horse with the biggest wow factor in the game right now, Sprinter Sacre, is the one they really want.

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