It was supposed to be the race of the season at Aintree yesterday, but the John Smith’s Melling Chase served as just another opportunity to look on with wonder at Sprinter Sacre.
That connections of Cue Card and Flemenstar, the two horses with any hope of unsettling Nicky Henderson’s horse in his first attempt at the interim distance of two and a half miles, had no excuses and could only offer their own assessments of Sprinter Sacre’s greatness tells its own story. Henderson clutched a rail by the Aintree winner’s enclosure with anxiety but nerves were swiftly followed by misty-eyed relief as the 1-3 favourite strolled clear without jockey Barry Geraghty moving a muscle.
Sprinter Sacre is now unbeaten in nine starts over fences and it was business as usual turning for home, with Geraghty easing four and a half lengths ahead of the brave and dogged Cue Card. Some 19 lengths could be measured before a sight of Flemenstar and Henderson’s other runner, last year’s Champion Chase star Finian’s Rainbow.
JP McManus, meanwhile, can look forward to next season after seeing his two star novice hurdlers My Tent Or Yours and At Fishers Cross enhance their sizeable reputations yesterday.
First to take to the turf in the green and gold silks was the Henderson-trained My Tent Or Yours, who lost out to Champagne Fever when considered one of the bankers of the Cheltenham Festival in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He was the 4-11 favourite to recoup those loses in the Rose Appeal Supports Alder Hey Top Novices’ Hurdle and odds-on backers had few concerns.
While stable companion Forgotten Voice did his best to keep up in the straight, he was not in the same league as My Tent Or Yours, who was eased down on the run-in by Tony McCoy but passed the post with 16 lengths in hand.
As well as having a possible Champion Hurdle contender, McManus also boasts a major challenger for the World Hurdle after At Fishers Cross won the John Smith’s Sefton Novices’ Hurdle. So impressive in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, Rebecca Curtis’ stable star was an 11-8 favourite to secure a second Grade One haul and the result was scarcely in doubt as he quickened up under McCoy to beat Just A Par by eight lengths.