Sprinter Sacre Ready To Come Back With A Bang
Clarence House Chase
The stage is set at Ascot on Saturday for what will prove a highly revealing clue as to whether Sprinter Sacre remains on course to regain the Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at Cheltenham in two months time.
If Nicky Henderson’s superstar is to be taken seriously as the 7/4 favourite for the Champion Chase, then he will need to show he has recovered from the irregular heartbeat that saw him pulled up in just one appearance lat season. Indeed, Saturday will be Sprinter Sacre’s first outing since failing to complete 386 days ago, and a racecourse gallop last month showed he retained some sparkle.
Henderson stated after that workout that he should improve, having blown the cobwebs away, and if he is right at the weekend, then there will be plenty looking to take 5/6 for him winning this Ascot event for a second time in three years.
There will be the doubters, however – after all, how many times have we seen a champion chaser not return the horse they once were, and while he still remains 10-11 over fences, the likes of Dodging Bullets (11/4) could be waiting to pounce should the jolly slip up.
Paul Nicholls’ 7yo was a dual Grade 2 winner last term, but recorded a career best in landing the prestigious Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown last month (2m, soft). Connections reported afterwards that the gelding had matured this season, and he showed good battling qualities in beating Somersby over 2l at Sandown – an 11yo who remains a solid yardstick.
Somersby may be getting on now, but did win this race three years ago and may catch the eye of each-way backers at 9/2, having been runner-up on both outings this term.
He will need to defy recent history in this race, though, as the age trends favoured younger chasers…
Of the last 10 Clarence House winners…
10 returned 12/1 or shorter – others were 0/34; favourites were 5-9
9 were 6-8yo’s – 8yo’s were best at 6-17
9 ran in Graded/Listed company last time
9 ran during the last 26-90 days
8 were officially rated 159 or higher
8 were French-bred
7 had 1-4 runs at Ascot (18%) – others were 3-44 (7%)
6 renewals were won by N Henderson (3) or P Nicholls (3)
One who does herald from the right age band is Willie Mullins’ 8yo, Twinlight (7/1), who comes to theses shores for only the second time.
Having been a Grade 2/3 winner down the years, Twinlight suddenly showed improvement in winning his first Grade 1 at Leopardstown over Christmas (2m1f, heavy). He is certainly capable, but may need more rain to fall if having ideal muddy conditions.
Elsewhere, it would be a shock if the 12yo, French Opera defied his 16/1 odds having last won in 2011 – some 16 race ago. Grey Gold also needs serious improvement to figure, and his 33/1 odds suggest he will be better back in handicaps.
It’s decision time for punters as to whether Sprinter Sacre will return the horse he once was. If he does, then the 5/6 for him winning could look big come Saturday teatime, while his odds for the Champion Chase may also take a tumble.