Henderson on edge for Sacre’s comeback

Nicky Henderson admitted to feeling "a bit jumpy" ahead of Sprinter Sacre’s highly anticipated return to action in the Sodexo Clarence House Chase at Ascot today.

Henderson on edge for Sacre’s comeback

The nine-year-old has so far carried all before him over fences, winning 10 of his 11 starts, including an unforgettable triumph in the 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

But just when Sprinter Sacre was beginning to appear unbeatable, he was pulled in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton in December 2013, when he was found to be suffering with a heart problem.

It has been a long road back for the brilliant chaser, but after numerous tests and a pleasing recent schooling session at Newbury, the stage is set for his comeback.

Henderson said : “He had that gallop at Newbury a couple of weeks ago, that went well and last week was good.

“We’d like to get this out of the way, really. We can only do what we’ve got to do and try and plot it correctly.

“Newbury was our first step to get him on a racecourse and get him enjoying himself and not put him under the stress of a race.

“He is the sort of horse that gets you a bit jumpy, but I’d rather have the problem than not have the problem.”

If Sprinter Sacre should come up short, the horse most likely to take advantage is the Paul Nicholls-trained Dodging Bullets.

The seven-year-old claimed Grade One gold in the Tingle Creek at Sandown last month, and with the champion trainer enjoying a break in Barbados, assistant Tom Jonasson has been overseeing the final preparations for his latest assignment.

He said: “It’s great to be going there with him off the back of what was a career-best effort at Sandown, but if Sprinter Sacre is anywhere near as good as he was at his best, he’s going to be extremely hard to beat.

“It would be a hollow victory for Sprinter Sacre if he turned up for a walkover, so someone has got to take him on and we’ll give it a go and do our best.

“We know our horse is going there in good form and he’ll handle the ground.”

Mick Channon’s Somersby claimed this prize three years ago, when trained by Henrietta Knight, and was runner-up behind Dodging Bullets in the Tingle Creek.

Channon said: “It’s a good race, but it’s a Grade One, so that’s what you expect.

“I’m hoping we’ll win, but we’ll have to see what happens.

“Dodging Bullets frightens me and the Willie Mullins horse (Twinlight) frightens me, so let’s not even go to Sprinter Sacre!

“The talking stops now and the race is on.”

Twinlight is certainly an interesting contender for Mullins and Ruby Walsh, having run out a surprise winner of the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Richard Lee’s outsider Grey Gold completes the five-strong field. Lee’s daughter and assistant, Kerry, said: “He’s in great order, he looks fantastic.

“There are few options for a horse rated 152 who wants soft ground on a stiff track so we had little choice but to go for it, really.

“We do appreciate what we are doing but, at the same time, we’ve got to give our horse every chance as he’s earned his place there.”

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