FRENCH seven-year-old Sprinter Sacre is arguably the most likely winner of the whole four days and, in all likelihood, he will become the shortest priced winner at the festival since the great Arkle. The Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old is unbeaten in six starts over fences and recorded a third consecutive Grade One success on his seasonal return with a stunning display of jumping in the Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on December 8. He won his last three races by 14l, 15l & 13l – some investors may see this as an excellent opportunity to make 25% profit upon their investment, while others may use him as a ‘banker’ for their Festival multiple bet. Sizing Europe will attempt to regain his Champion Chase crown which he won a couple of year’s ago. Of-course he’s now 11 years old but age hasn’t held him back, just the opposite, and he remains unbeaten this jump season. The only time Sizing Europe met defeat was in last season’s Champion Chase, chasing home Finian’s Rainbow home by just over 1 length, and the 2011 champion can be relied upon to put in another reliable show.
Cue Card is making his fourth trip to Cheltenham, having won the Champion Bumper on his first trip back in 2010. Last year he finished second in the Arkle, 7 lengths behind Sprinter Sacre, and has been raced sparingly since.
Wishful Thinking won at Newbury last time out and whilst that was against a field of a considerably lower class it was a strong showing. He has plenty of experience at this course, including a win last November over this same two mile distance.
Mail de Bievre isn’t just looking to make-up the numbers. Although this French 8 year old hasn’t tasted victory in almost 5 years,he shorter distance of the Queen Mother Champion Chase is bound to agree with him instead of the endurance challenge of a three miler like he faced recently in the Betfair sponsored Denman Chase.
Last year’s winner Finian’s Rainbow is also still in the hunt for Henderson. He enjoyed a terrific spring of 2012, winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase in a fine duel with Sizing Europe and following up at Aintree where he did not need to come off the bridle in beating Wishfull Thinking. This season, however, has been a disaster so far as the 10-year-old has failed to beat a rival in two runs at Ascot, labouring home a long way adrift of winners Captain Chris and Cue Card.
Somersby has finished third in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, second in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, fifth in the 2011 Queen Mother Champion Chase and seventh in the Ryanair Chase last season. This term he has run respectably without setting the world alight behind Sprinter Sacre in the Victor
Chandler Chase at Cheltenham and against Cue Card at Ascot last time out.
Sanctuaire has not raced at the Cheltenham Festival since winning the Fred Winter Novices’ Hurdle here in 2010, and while well beaten by Sprinter Sacre twice this season (29l & 19l), his two Grade 2 wins either side of those defeats suggest he could make the frame.
Our opinion? There’s no reason to think Sprinter Sacre won’t win this race, but the odds are very low (1.20-1.28 for this outstanding 7yo).