Sacre heads Champion 17
(Healy Racing Photos)
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 sportingbet.com 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.
The North Kerry point-to-point due to be held at Tralee racecourse on Sunday January 20th has been called off.