Sprinter Sacre ‘spot on’ ahead of Champion Chase bid

Nicky Henderson is optimistic about the chances of Sprinter Sacre regaining the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

Sprinter Sacre ‘spot on’ ahead of Champion Chase bid

Despite only finishing second on his comeback run in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot last month the Seven Barrows handler feels satisfied with where he is with the nine-year-old heading to Prestbury Park.

The Caroline Mould-owned gelding enjoyed his finest hour to date when securing the 2013 Champion Chase after demolishing his rivals in scintillating fashion by 19-lengths.

Henderson said: “The early parts were hard work and we were just waiting for that spark to come back. You cannot force it to happen but we are as good as we have been for a very long time.

“We have had our one run and he has done a lot of work since and he is spot on. I am not saying he is what he was for two years as he was ridiculously unbeatable no matter what anybody threw at him.

“I am not confident but pretty optimistic and all has gone according to plan.”

While pleased with the position he has Sprinter Sacre in ahead of his assignment at the Festival, Henderson was suitably impressed with the performance his arch rival, and reigning Champion Chaser, Sire De Grugy, put in at Chepstow on Saturday.

Henderson said: “I was impressed with Sire De Grugy on Saturday as it was a great shout by Gary Moore and it paid off.

“It will be a great race and one hell of a clash. They have got the crown that we want back.”

Henderson, meanwhile, feels that Ma Filleule deserves to be part of his A-team at the Festival.

Last season’s impressive Topham Chase winner is on course for a shot at the Grade One Ryanair Chase.

The seven-year old mare confirmed her well-being ahead of a tilt at the two-mile-five contest when chasing home Balder Succes in the Betfair Chase at Ascot.

Henderson said: “I think Ma Filleule warrants being put in the mix and comes into the A-team as I thought she run a great race back at Ascot.

“She only just got beat by Holywell at last year’s Festival and her run in the Topham was absolutely fantastic.

“The trip will be ideal for her and she will be very closely matched with Balder Succes as she will come on a great deal for that run. She has a very realistic chance.”

Henderson is also hopeful Bobs Worth will be “there or thereabouts” when he bids to regain his crown in the Gold Cup.

The 10-year-old clinched the blue riband with a brilliant display in 2013, taking his record at Prestbury Park to five from five and adding to his previous Festival triumphs in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and the RSA Chase.

That unbeaten run went up in smoke last March, though, as Bobs Worth inexplicably wandered up the hill he has devoured so many times in the past and on his only start since he finished a well-beaten eigthth when aiming for back-to-back victories in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. However, Henderson has been pleased with what he has seen on the Seven Barrows gallops in recent weeks and is hopeful his charge will show his true colours on March 13.

He said: “Things have gone according to plan with Bobs Worth. He did get a bit sick coming back from Ireland but he has done everything right now for a good three weeks.

“If the ground isn’t too bad the plan is to go to Newbury on Sunday. We are going to sit still with Newbury and hope it is not bottomless. If it is, we have got alternative plans.

“Barry (Geraghty) said if we can get him in similar form as to what we had him in before the Lexus he will be there or thereabouts.”

The master of Seven Barrows is unsurprisingly strong-armed across the four days as he bids to add to a record 51 Festival wins, but one race in which he appears to hold a particularly formidable hand is the Triumph Hurdle.

Peace And Co has been all the rage for the juvenile championship since his stunning British bow at Doncaster in December and he has since made it two from two in more workmanlike fashion on Cheltenham Trials Day last month.

Stable companion Hargam is also a course winner and completed his Cheltenham preparations in style at Musselburgh, while Top Notch made it five from five at Haydock last time out.

“Top Notch is a good hardy horse. His secret weapon is that is very professional as he has got the most experience of the three,” said Henderson.

“Hargam, I know he won on soft ground at Cheltenham, but I would like to see him on better ground.

“Peace and Co is nicely relaxed now. He learned a lot at Cheltenham last time out. He didn’t look the same as at Doncaster first time out but it was a messy race and he had to do it that way. He schooled very well on Friday.

“The novice hurdlers are very strong all the way through this year and will make a stack of novice chasers next year, which is what we are missing this year. If the likes of Sprinter Sacre don’t win it is nice to know that the junior division is very strong.”

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