Paul Nicholls may have taken his National Hunt trainers’ championship from him last season, but Nicky Henderson has a couple of useful fully loaded and locked on their targets as the big guns start to make their racecourse reappearance.
Not seen since battling hard to land the Arkle, taking his record over fences to three from three, Simonsig heads the market for the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day at 9/2.
Such was the ease of his first two starts over the large obstacles, one a 35l demolition of Grade 1 winning chaser Hinterland, he adorned himself to the racing public.
But a splint issue kept the classy grey out for the whole of the 2013-14 season, and left us wandering what he could achieve as a second-season chaser.
He is clearly classy, barely touching a twig during the aforementioned hammering at Kempton last time out, but is he a bit short for his first go at 3m against some hardened stayers?
Probably. But should the son of Fair Mix impress on his intended reappearance in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon at the start of December, there could be a new member of jump racing’s elite.
One horse who already has his hooves well and truly up on the top table is Sprinter Sacre.
Rated 188 after trouncing all before him in his first 10 starts over fences, his run came to an abrupt end when pulled up last winter.
A heart defect was discovered to be the cause of that problem, and ‘the Black Aeroplane’ sat out the remainder of the season, leaving Gary Moore’s popular chestnut to sweep up the 2m chasing division.
But with Henderson saying his crown was merely lent to the young pretender, we can expect fireworks when the pair take to the track together this year.
Ultimately a meeting at Cheltenham in the Champion Chase is on the agenda, with Ladbrokes offering 3/1 the pair, but they could come face to face sooner.
The Lambourn trainer has described how the eight-year-old “went like a bullet” over fixed brushed hurdles at his Berkshire stables.
With a meeting at Sandown in the Tingle Creek Chase on December 6th on the cards, we simply cannot wait to see what this season throws up.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing
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