Sprinter Sacre heads 26 entries for BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase

Sprinter Sacre, the highest-rated Jump horse in training, heads 26 entries revaeled today for the £350,000 BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival (March 12).

Nicky Henderson’s charge is the 4/7 favourite with sponsor BetVictor to become the 12th dual winner of the two-mile chasing championship following a faultless 19-length demolition of Sizing Europe in last season’s renewal. Sprinter Sacre went on to complete a memorable Grade One spring Festival hat-trick with victories in Aintree’s Melling Chase and Punchestown’s equivalent of the Champion Chase, but this season has not gone to plan.

The eight-year-old missed his intended reappearance in the BetVictor Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park on December 7 due to an unsatisfactory tracheal wash and was pulled up at halfway in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park on December 27. Post-race tests revealed he had an irregular heartbeat, but subsequent analysis indicated the problem had corrected itself.

With Sprinter Sacre absent or below par, last season’s Grade Two Celebration Chase scorer Sire De Grugy (3/1) has established himself as a leading two-mile chaser with three victories from four starts this term. Gary Moore’s eight-year-old stable star made light work of his rivals under top-weight at Chepstow in October and, after failing to concede 10lb to Kid Cassidy in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November, has come home the decisive winner of both the Grade One BetVictor Tingle Creek Chase and the Grade Two Desert Orchid Chase.

Other notable British-trained contenders include four-time Grade One victor Captain Conan (12/1), also trained by Henderson, unbeaten novice Dodging Bullets, from Paul Nicholls’ Somerset stables, and Grade Two BetVictor Haldon Gold Cup scorer, the Mick Channon-trained Somersby (14/1).

Henry de Bromhead is responsible for two of the nine Irish-trained entries, headed by 2011 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Sizing Europe, who has only finished out of the first two once in five starts at The Festival.

The 12-year-old also captured the 2010 Racing Post Arkle Chase and has filled the runner-up spot in the last two renewals of the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase. He made a successful reappearance at Gowran Park in October, but proved no match for Roi Du Mee when second in the three-mile Champion Chase at Down Royal in November or when fourth to Benefficient (10/1) after being dropped back sharply in trip at Leopardstown on December 27.

De Bromhead reported: “Hopefully, Sizing Europe will run in either the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase or the Ryanair Chase. They are provisional entries and we are not leaning either way at this stage.

“He has been fine since his run at Leopardstown. He was a little disappointing and didn’t really attack his fences as he normally does, but there were various reasons with the ground being the main one. He will go straight to Cheltenham now and hopefully he can bounce back.”

Sizing Europe is joined among the entries by his improving stable companion Special Tiara, who sprung a surprise when beating Overturn in the Grade One Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April. The lightly-raced seven-year-old unseated Bryan Cooper on his seasonal return at Naas in October, but bounced back with an encouraging third to Kid Cassidy and Sire De Grugy in the Shloer Chase at The Open.

De Bromhead added: “The BetVictor Champion Chase is a race we are very much looking at for Special Tiara. We were delighted with his run at Cheltenham where the ground there was still a little bit soft for him.

“He has been in great form since then and we were going to run him at Christmas, but the ground went against him everywhere, so we decided to wait.

“He’s in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot next Saturday (January 18) and he might go there depending on ground or otherwise he will run in the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown at the beginning of February.”

The Irish contingent also features the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Arvika Ligeonniere (14/1) and Twinlight (14/1), last season’s Racing Post Arkle Chase runner-up Baily Green, dual Festival scorer Alderwood and Paddy Power Gold Cup third Hidden Cyclone (12/1).

BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase – BetVictor bet: 4/7 Sprinter Sacre, 3/1 Sire De Grugy, 10/1 Benefficient, 12/1 Captain Conan, Hidden Cyclone, 14/1 Arvika Ligeonniere, Twinlight, Somersby, 20s bar. ¼ the odds 1-2-3. BetVictor is offering non-runner, free bet on the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Charlie McCann of BetVictor commented: “We are delighted with the quality and quantity of entries for the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase and look forward to watching Sprinter Sacre defend his crown in March following the upbeat veterinary bulletin last week.

“There is a strong Irish entry with former winner Sizing Europe, last year’s Jewson Novices’ Chase winner Benefficient and the unexposed Twinlight of particular interest and Paul Nicholls, who has saddled the winner of the race on four previous occasions, has entered four including exciting novices Dodging Bullets and Hinterland.”

Timeform Ratings for the Champion Chase (weight-adjusted)

203p SPRINTER SACRE

178 AL FEROF

177+ SIRE DE GRUGY

176 ARVIKA LIGEONNIERE

173 RIVERSIDE THEATRE

171+ BENEFFICIENT

171 SOMERSBY

170 HIDDEN CYCLONE

167+ CAPTAIN CONAN

167 OISEAU DE NUIT

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