Sanctuaire bounces back at Kempton
Ruby Walsh, rider of Sanctuaire
(Healy Racing Photos)
No match for Sprinter Sacre on his reappearance in the Tingle Creek Chase, the 11/8 favourite could nevertheless renew rivalries with that horse in the Champion Chase back in March after impressing with his attitude here.
Headed by the strong-travelling Wishfull Thinking coming out of the back straight, Ruby Walsh didn't panic and when the leader quickly capitulated soon afterwards, Sanctuaire swiftly shot back past to regain the advantage, going on to score by 13 lengths from Kumbeshwar.
For a horse who hasn't always looked entirely straightforward, connections of the winner were understandably delighted to see him knuckle down for victory.
"We won't go to the Victor Chandler with him - he's more likely to go for the Game Spirit at Newbury - but we could well meet Sprinter Sacre again in the Champion Chase and then go to Sandown," said trainer Paul Nicholls. "It's not as if he has many options and he seems to be growing up all the time.
"He started to pull himself up on the back straight and I thought that was it, but when the others had gone past him he took off.
"He is quirky and silly, but you can ride him accordingly. If we can ride him with more restraint he could be interesting."
Amazingly just three of the sixteen horses who set out for the Earl of Harrington Memorial Maiden Hunters Chase managed to complete the 2m 6f course, with Goonyella coming out on top for Jim Dreaper and Jamie Flynn.