Nicky Henderson was impressed with Un De Sceaux’s performance in the Clarence House Chase and is looking forward to taking on the Irish ace with Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham.
Un De Sceaux, trained by Willie Mullins, re-established his position as the number one contender for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase when beating the 2014 titleholder Sire De Grugy by five lengths at Ascot on Saturday after falling on his previous outing at Leopardstown.
Sprinter Sacre had beaten Sire De Grugy by three-quarters of a length in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas, so the scene is now set for the leading two-milers to clash in what promises to be a vintage renewal of the Champion Chase on March 16.
Henderson reports Sprinter Sacre, the 2013 Champion Chase winner, in tip-top shape and confirmed the 10-year-old will now go straight to Cheltenham without another run.
“He’s great. He won’t run before Cheltenham,” said the Seven Barrows handler.
“There’s no need to run him again. There’s no need to. He’s actually in excellent shape. He’s cantering away and he’ll start his build-up in about 10 days’ time.
“I thought Un De Sceaux was great (at Ascot). It was a good race. He was very impressive. It’s exciting and it should be some race at Cheltenham.”
Meanwhile Saphir Du Rheu is unlikely to have another start before the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Having undergone a breathing operation after finishing fifth in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot last month, the Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old is now almost certain to be next seen in the Grade One contest, in which he finished second last year, on March 17.
Owner Andy Stewart said: “Saphir Du Rheu is very well. The reason he didn’t run well at Ascot was simply because he needed a breathing operation.
“He has had the breathing operation so he is now fixed on that front and is in absolutely super form. He will go straight to the World Hurdle now.”
Stewart felt the decision to run Champion Hurdle contender Old Guard, whom he part-owns with Jeremy Kyle, in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton was one race too many.
He said: “We shouldn’t have run him at Kempton as it came so soon after Cheltenham.”
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