It was a weekend seemingly billed all about one horse, and although Sprinter Sacre failed to return to past glories on his first foray in 13 months, he still holds firm at the top of the Champion Chase betting.
With a surge of market support Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old was sent off as a strong 4/6 favourite at Ascot, and for much of the race travelled with the zest and vigour we had all known he was capable of.
Turning in, Barry Geraghty looked calmness personified, as ‘The Black Aeroplane’ loomed alongside Dodging Bullets.
But after another decent jump at the second-last Noel Fehily asked his mount and he quickened away nicely, with Geraghty noticeably not giving Sprinter Sacre a hard time after he had been passed.
Nicky Henderson was pleased with the comeback, “I loved the way he travelled and I’m pleased we decided to run. Only one day matters and he’ll come on plenty for it,” the Seven Barrows trainer noted.
The 2013 champion was eased from 2/1 out to 5/2 for the Cheltenham showpiece, a price that could look huge if he returns to his best at Prestbury Park.
Meanwhile, the winner Dodging Bullets was cut from 10/1 into 4/1, and must now rate as a live chance for a race that is really starting to take shape.
Aso stakes Betfair Hurdle claims
With two of the previous three winners of the Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle going on to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Neptune Novices’ Hurdle, big things could be on the cards for this year’s winner Aso.
And while the opening race of the Festival could well be the ultimate target for Venetia Williams’ charge, he could be in big race action before then.
Liam Treadwell’s mount put plenty of distance between himself and the chasing Kiama Bay at Haydock to run out a smart victor at odds of 3/1, and a trip to Newbury could now be on the cards with a tilt at the Betfair Hurdle a distinct possibility.
So impressed with his performance, Ladbrokes were forced to cut the five-year-old from 33/1 to 16/1 for the big handicap in three weeks time.
Vautour bounces back in style
While Sprinter Sacre’s return was filled with intrigue, it was simply about restoring some reputation for Vautour.
On his last outing, Willie Mullins’ charge made a horrendous error down Leopardstown’s back straight, and although he almost ended up on the deck, it would have been tough to argue that he would have won anyway.
There were no such doubts at the same track on Sunday though.
The 1/5 favourite was back to his impressive best, and although his only real rival Real Steel was a final fence faller, looked an easy winner from a long way out and was an eased down winner of the Killiney Novice Chase.
Festival options still look open, though with his price for the JLT Novices’ Chase going from 4/1 back into 7/2, many will be hoping the 2m4f option is the one connections go for.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing
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