I was there. A trio of words that will be uttered with a smile, as racegoers at Sandown Park on Saturday will be able to say that they witnessed potentially one of the finest two-mile displays in living memory, as Sprinter Sacre recorded a mind-blowing performance to trounce his rivals by 15 lengths to win the Grade One Tingle Creek Chase.
Sanctuaire tried to break the Nicky Henderson-trained phenomenon and a sketchy jump at the beginning of the back straight may have handed the Seven Barrows team a nervous couple of seconds, but as he jumped to the lead at the Pond Fence, the bookmakers were already slashing his price for the 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase and he is now as short as 1/2 with Coral for the 2m crown in March.
Barry Geraghty could’ve sat tight for the last fence, but he elected to show the packed stands what this gelding could do and produced a memorable leap which lengthened his unassailable lead and it was Sanctuaire who suffered the early exertions and he is now 10/1 for the Champion Chase, after being passed by Kumbeshwar late on.
Paul Nicholls was magnanimous in defeat and punters may not have gained the exciting battle many predicted, but that was solely down to Sprinter Sacre being a cut above and if he stays sound until March 13 then you would be a brave punter to take on what could be one of the finest chasers of all time.
Prior to the Tingle Creek, Messrs Henderson and Geraghty had already unearthed another potential Festival contender as Captain Conan recorded an exemplary performance in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase to cement his place as a leading Arkle Challenge Trophy player.
Cut to 7/1 in the latest betting by Coral, the five-year-old dispatched Hinterland with aplomb and stayed on in tremendous fashion to become a real Arkle pretender and a potential fly in the ointment for his Seven Barrows stablemate Simonsig, who currently heads the betting at 3/1 for the 2m Grade One on the opening day of the Festival.
Not long after the dust had settled from a super Saturday at Sandown Park, another budding luminary emerged from across the Irish Sea as Flemenstar tarnished the unblemished record of Sir Des Champs to continue his meteoric rise up the ratings and was cut for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, following his five-length John Durkan Memorial Chase win.
Coral cut Peter Casey’s seven-year-old to 5/1 for the blue riband event on March 15, one point behind Hennessy winner Bobs Worth, and Casey has been adamant that his pride and joy could make the step up beyond three miles and will be aimed at the Gold Cup in what is bubbling up into a superb renewal.
However, Willie Mullins wouldn’t have been too disheartened by Sir Des Champs’ defeat as the 2m 4f was always going to be on the sharp side for him and he was facing a race-fit rival in Flemenstar, and with it being his first outing of the season, he is sure to come on leaps and bounds over the next few months. Even with a defeat to his name, Coral elected to keep him in the higher echelons of the betting and his available at 6/1 for the Gold Cup.
Queen Mother Champion Chase Odds
1/2 Sprinter Sacre, 7/1 Finian's Rainbow, 8/1 Sizing Europe, 10/1 Cue Card; Sanctuaire, 16/1 Days Hotel, 25/1 Edgardo Sol; Realt Dubh, 33/1 BAR
Arkle Challenge Trophy Odds
3/1 Simonsig, 7/1 Arvika Ligeonniere; Captain Conan; Overturn, 12/1 Oscars Well, 16/1 Hinterland; Sire De Grugy, 20/1 Alderwood, 33/1 BAR
Cheltenham Gold Cup Odds
4/1 Bobs Worth, 5/1 Flemenstar, 6/1 Sir Des Champs; Silviniaco Conti, 7/1 Long Run, 14/1 Al Ferof, 16/1 First Lieutenant; Last Instalment, 20/1 The Giant Bolster; Grands Crus; Hidden Cyclone; Riverside Theatre; Kauto Stone, 25/1 BAR
Odds supplied by Coral.com.
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