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Queen Mother Champion Chase latest news - Sprinter Sacre set for Cheltenham Festival test

Will there be more Cheltenham Festival glory for Sprinter Sacre and jockey Barry Geraghty? (credit: Cheltenhampro.com)

Trainer Nicky Henderson admits Sprinter Sacre may not be as brilliant as when at his peak, but feels he is still good enough to regain his crown in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday.

Join BetVictor and get 10/1 Sprinter Sacre to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase

A spectacular winner of the two-mile blue riband prize in 2013, Sprinter Sacre has had well-documented heart problems which kept him off the track for over a year.

However, he showed he was no back number when beaten three lengths by this season's revelation Dodging Bullets in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January.

Sprinter Sacre's preparation has gone smoothly since then and Henderson expects the nine-year-old to put up a good fight in his bid to emulate Royal Relief (1972 and 1974) and Moscow Flyer (2003 and 2005) by regaining the title.

Henderson said:
“Sprinter Sacre is not the same as two years ago but he is pretty good. I can honestly say we were satisfied with his run at Ascot, although it didn't please everyone. 
“When he was at his best he was unbeatable. We haven’t got exactly the same horse but he is in knocking distance of it. Nico de Boinville who rides him every day is optimistic. 
“He is in seriously good shape and doing everything we have remotely asked of him without killing him. 
“He travelled like the best horse at Ascot and just got tired at the end. Barry Geraghty waited a bit longer than he might have done but that was perfectly understandable. 
“I think everyone would love to see him back as he was so special. I don’t think he will ever be back to what he was two years ago when he was unbeatable, but he might not need to be. 
“We want our crown back. Sire De Grugy has it and I'm sure the Moores want to keep it, but we want it back. Let's hope the race lives up to the billing.”


Sprinter Sacre (Getty Images)

Sire De Grugy has also had troubles since powering to victory 12 months ago, but looked as good as ever when bolting up in a Chepstow handicap last month just two weeks after unseating his rider on his return at Newbury.

His trainer Gary Moore said:
“I think he has a serious chance and I just hope he gets luck in running like he did last year, which is all important in a race of that calibre. 
 “I can see there will be heaps of pace in the race, which will suit us. The faster they go the better. 
“Sire De Grugy had a very interrupted preparation before Newbury and it was a miracle we got there after the setbacks he had. He can only improve.”

Champagne Fever is a two-time Festival winner but suffered a surprise defeat in last year's Arkle Trophy.

Trainer Willie Mullins felt the grey appreciated a change in tactics, ridden more patiently, when winning at Gowran Park on his latest start.

Mullins said:
“I love the fact we rode him differently the last day and he responded, jumped fantastic and loved it. 
“That will put him in a good frame of mind going back to Cheltenham. We’ve taken his Cheltenham record into account - three runs, only beaten a short head once, all over the minimum trip. 
“It probably takes a two-and-a-half miler to win the Champion Chase anyway.”


Champagne Fever (left) wins at Cheltenham (Getty Images)

Champagne Fever's owner Rich Ricci added:
“He doesn't have to go from the front. We might get a tow from something like Special Tiara and he seemed to really enjoy himself the last day. 
“Dodging Bullets certainly has the best form going into the race but I think we go there with a great chance to win it.”

Paul Nicholls has two progressive types in Dodging Bullets and Mr Mole, who have earned their places with a series of impressive displays this season.

The Ditcheat trainer said:
“Dodging Bullets likes soft ground and I wouldn’t want it to dry up too much. He is a real staying two-miler. 
“He has done well physically and visually since Ascot. He has put on a bit of condition again, which has given us something to work on.”

Mr Mole took full advantage of Sire De Grugy's exit to win the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

Nicholls added:
“He has a great chance in a very open Champion Chase, with the two heroes coming back and the improving horses coming through and he is one of them.”

Northern hopes rest with Simply Ned, trained by Nicky Richards whose late father Gordon sent out One Man to triumph in 1998.

Richards said:
“Simply Ned's preparation has been very good. He went down to Newmarket for the month and everything went lovely - he didn’t miss a day. 
“It was always the plan to keep him fresh for Cheltenham. The only race he could have run in was the Game Spirit Chase but we felt it wasn’t the right thing to do. 
“I think he has run three solid races this season and fully deserves to take his chance. 
“The drier the ground the better for my lad and full credit to him because the ground he ran on at Cheltenham and Leopardstown was against him. He handles soft or heavy ground but is a different horse on good ground.”

Queen Mother Champion Chase odds:

  3/1 Sprinter Sacre (888sport)
10/3 Sire De Grugy (888sport)
11/2 Dodging Bullets (888sport)
  6/1 Champagne Fever (Boylesports)
  9/1 Mr Mole (888sport)
18/1 Simply Ned (Coral)
25/1 bar


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Queen Mother Champion Chase latest news - Sprinter Sacre set for Cheltenham Festival test

Trainer Nicky Henderson admits Sprinter Sacre may not be as brilliant as when at his peak, but feels he is still good enough to regain his crown in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday.

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