Sacre Heads Champion 17

Thu 10th Jan 2013, 12:27

Sprinter Sacre
©Healy Racing Photos
Sprinter Sacre heads 17 entries for the £350,000 Grade One Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles, the feature race on day two of The Cheltenham Festival, Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 13.

Nicky Henderson's performer enjoyed an unbeaten novice chase campaign which culminated with a faultless seven-length success over Cue Card in the Racing Post Arkle Chase at The Festival last year and another easy Grade One triumph at Aintree.

The seven-year-old started this season in breathtaking fashion when thrashing Kumbeshwar and Sanctuaire by at least 15 lengths in the Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park in December. Sprinter Sacre is a 4/9 chance with the sponsor to win for a second time at The Festival.

Henderson is also responsible for the reigning two-mile champion chaser Finian's Rainbow and exciting novice Simonsig, who is currently favourite for the Racing Post Arkle Chase.

The four Irish-trained entries in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase are headed by the 2011 victor and 2012 runner-up Sizing Europe. Henry de Bromhead's 11-year-old made it three from three this season with a comfortable success over Rubi Light in the Grade One Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown on December 27.

Sizing Europe's trainer Henry de Bromhead said: "The Champion Chase is a race we are looking at for Sizing Europe. He has been entered in the Ryanair and the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup too and we just want to keep our options open at this stage.

"He seems in great form at the moment and we have been delighted with his performances this season. His win at Clonmel was very impressive.

"I'd imagine he will have one more race before The Festival and we are looking at the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown in early February."

Flemenstar, who also holds an entry in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase, has the option of going for the two-mile championship event instead.

GRAND NATIONAL - The Northern Challenge

The Sue Smith-trained Auroras Encore was the last northern-trained horse to win the Grand National back in 2013 but recent victories for that part of the country have been thin on the ground since the likes of Lucius, Rubstic and Hallo Dandy in the late 70s early 80’s showed that steeplechasing was in a healthy state north of the Watford Gap with the likes of Gordon W Richards, Denys Smith, Arthur Stephenson, Peter Easterby and Jimmy Fitzgerald capable of holding their own against their southern and Irish counterparts.