The anticipated seasonal reappearance of champion elect, Sprinter Sacre did not disappoint this weekend in what was regarded as his stiffest task to date. The front running tactics of the Paul Nicholls trained Sanctuaire which had resulted in emphatic wins in his last three races, did not work on this occasion. Sanctuaire won the Fred Winter Juvenile grade 3 novices handicap hurdle at the Cheltenham festival in 2010, however his hurdling career did not take off as expected, it wasn’t until he was tried over fences earlier this year that his true vocation was found. He won all of his three chases in great style, including a 17 length win over Somersby in the grade 2 Celebration Chase over the course and distance at Sandown. As expected Sanctuaire and Ruby Walsh set off to make the running at a decent pace with the 4/11 favourite Sprinter Sacre and Barry Geraghty keeping a respectful but close enough 8 to 10 lengths behind in 2nd for much of the race.
The favourite did make a couple of untidy jumps in the early stages of the race, but soon got into a comfortable flowing rhythm and the leading pair soon had the rest of the field struggling to keep pace. Sprinter Sacre started to make up ground at the railway fences, drawing along side Sanctuaire and jumping into the lead at the pond fence three from home. It was game over for the rest as he jumped the last with a mighty leap and with Geraghty looking round for none existing dangers went on to win by 15 lengths. The brave efforts of Sanctuaire finally took their toll and the tired horse made a bad jump at the last, allowing Alan King’s Kumbeshwar to come from a long way back to take 2nd on the run in to the line. Sprinter Sacre is now around 2/5 for the Queen Mothers Champion Chase in March, and could run next in the Victor Chandler at Ascot in January.