Nicky Henderson: Sprinter Sacre knows he is special
A record crowd of 18,208 turned up for Trials Day at Cheltenham and were treated to a spectacular afternoon’s action, led by Sprinter Sacre in the Victor Chandler Chase.
Making it a magnificent seven wins over fences, Nicky Henderson admitted he was a relieved man when it was all over.
Mad Moose was a gallant, if distant, second after leading through the early stages, but was 14 lengths adrift of the jumping game’s new two-mile colossus, very much Frankel-esque.
All roads now lead back to Cheltenham and the Queen Mother Champion Chase for Henderson’s superstar, who obliged as 1-5 favourite in the supremely capable hands of Barry Geraghty.
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Henderson said: “Barry’s confidence in him is unbelievable. He knows you can jump anything with him.
“He’s such a gorgeous horse to look at, you would think he would be something special. He knows he is special and I suppose we are all starting to believe he might be.”
Sprinter Sacre is 1-3 favourite with Ladbrokes for his March assignment.
Henderson also now houses the Triumph Hurdle favourite after Rolling Star (5-2) mastered the odds-on Irish Saint close home to make a winning British debut by two and a quarter lengths in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial.
Ladbrokes World Hurdle hope Reve De Sivola was all out to see off Henderson’s Oscar Whisky by a neck in a pulsating Rewards4Racing Cleeve Hurdle under Richard Johnson.
Trainer Nick Williams said: “The World Hurdle has to be our next step, as we need three miles and he doesn’t have to have this sort of ground, although he wouldn’t want it very quick.”
Oscar Whisky could renew rivalries in the World Hurdle, according to Henderson.
Another of Denis O’Regan’s now typical waiting rides was just enough for Cape Tribulation to prevent a showstopping comeback from Imperial Commander in the Argento Chase.
For a National Hunt faithful starved of action for some days, the feature event of a glittering card almost provided the dream outcome for local hero Imperial Commander, the 2010 Gold Cup winner and course regular who had been sidelined with various ailments for not far off two years.
The vigour remained with the veteran as he tore through the final circuit and opponents dropped gradually away, but O’Regan shadowed Paddy Brennan, redoubling his efforts when Cape Tribulation (7-1) jumped sloppily in the home straight and summoned half a length extra in a memorable finish.
Jefferson said: “He’s in the World Hurdle, but he is jumping so well now I think the Gold Cup is the race he’ll go for.
“He might be better on better ground and if could get a place in the Gold Cup that might be better than running with a big weight in a handicap.”
Yesterday Hurricane Fly won the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown for the third successive year in imperious fashion for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh.
The nine-year-old never came off the bridle in registering his 14th Grade One success, setting himself up perfectly for his bid to regain the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Binocular travelled well for a long way but was soon left in Hurricane Fly’s wake and Nicky Henderson’s 2010 champion just failed to get past Thousand Stars for second.
Hurricane Fly (1-6 favourite) won by five lengths.
Mullins said: “He’s well used to these conditions and he flies through that ground so everything went according to plan.
“We didn’t know what One Cool Shabra was going to do, but we weren’t going to be hanging around with either horse (Hurricane Fly and Thousand Stars) if there was no pace.
“When you look at the race it was a tip-top race. Binocular has won a Champion Hurdle, Thousand Stars has won two French Champion Hurdles and Captain Cee Bee won a Supreme.
“Everything had gone 100% in his preparation.
“I’ve had faith in him all year and he seems to be in the sort of form he was two years ago.”