Nicky Henderson’s champion chaser Sprinter Sacre is still behind in his preparations for the Cheltenham Festival due to power outages and flooding at the trainer’s Seven Barrows yard in Berkshire.
The 1/2 favourite to retain the Queen Mother Champion Chase failed to win for only the third time in his 17-race career at Kempton over Christmas and Henderson confirmed a few days later that the horse was suffering from an irregular heartbeat.
That news hasn’t dissuaded Sprinter Sacre’s army of fans from getting behind the eight-year-old, who also romped to an easy Arkle Chase win at the festival in 2012.
However, after a routine session at home was postponed by Henderson due to the inclement English weather, the super gelding may be running out of time to reach peak fitness ahead of what’s likely to be a gruelling renewal of Cheltenham Wednesday’s showpiece event.
Sire De Grugy’s Clarence House Chase victory at Ascot last month was Gary Moore’s chestnut’s sixth success in his last seven races, which includes the win at Kempton in December when Sprinter Sacre pulled up, and Ladbrokes see the eight-year-old as the only realistic danger to the favourite at 5/2, with the rest of the field priced up at 10/1 or more.
Sprinter Sacre is likely to have a spin around the Kempton all-weather track prior to March’s big meeting in Gloucestershire, along with a couple of other Henderson hotpots in need of a run, including last year’s Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth.
The Bob Back gelding is the 7/4 favourite to become the first horse since Best Mate to retain the Gold Cup, but faces a tough task against Paul Nicholls’ Silviniaco Conti and Colin Tizzard’s Cue Card, who have both beaten Bobs Worth this season and are also prominent in the betting at 3/1 and 6/1 respectively.
Philip Hobbs’ Captain Chris served notice of a return to form with a 19l win in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase over the weekend and the 2011 Arkle winner rates an interesting outsider for Festival Friday’s main event at 20/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £50 in free bets.