On any other day an 11-length win in a Grade One, Champion Chase trial would have been greeted with a wave of optimism over the victor’s chances at the Cheltenham Festival. But for Sire De Grugy, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Gary Moore’s chestnut cruised to his sixth win in seven races when an impressive victor at the Clarence House Chase at Ascot, yet the news that he will battle Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother this coming March was greeted with a collective shrug of the shoulders by the racing public.
Ladbrokes were one of a few firms unmoved by the performance, keeping his odds to win at Cheltenham frozen at 3/1 immediately after the Ascot run, although that price has since come in to 5/2.
Much of the sketchy validity surrounding Sire De Grugy’s bid to be Champion Chaser lies in the fact that his main competitor in the last two outings has failed to see the race through.
Somersby, who set off as the second favourite in the Clarence, unseated jockey Dominic Elsworth way before that race came to the crunch, while Sprinter Sacre himself pulled up in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas.
There’s no question that Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre are the leading two prospects in the two-mile division, a fact that’s backed up by the joint-third favourites in the Champion Chase, Arvika Ligeonniere, Benefficient, Captain Conan, all standing at a hefty 10/1 in the ante-post betting.
The health problems Sprinter Sacre is currently suffering from means the betting on Nicky Henderson’s stable star, which currently stands at 1/2, is far longer than usual.
Another easy win at the Festival seems far from a foregone conclusion. However, despite the best efforts of Sire De Grugy, it seems the market is yet to accept that anyone is quite ready to claim his crown.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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