Sprinter Sacre returns to form at Cheltenham

Nico de Boinville riding Sprinter Sacre clears the last to win The Shloer Chase at Cheltenham. Picture: Getty Images
Nico de Boinville riding Sprinter Sacre clears the last to win The Shloer Chase at Cheltenham. Picture: Getty Images
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Volume levels were at maximum as Sprinter Sacre announced his return to form in emphatic fashion when making a triumphant visit to a winner’s enclosure he has enjoyed many magical moments in during his career after claiming the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham.

With doubts as to whether the nine-year-old would ever again be the majestic performer he was when he dominated the two-mile division, the 2013 Champion Chase winner truly looked back to somewhere near his best, destroying his rivals in the Grade Two prize.

Although his last visit to Prestbury Park ended with him pulling up in March, the chances of a similar happening were thankfully remote from an early stage, with new pilot Nico de Boinville exuding confidence aboard the seven-times Grade One winner.

Mr Mole took the field along until giving way to the well-backed 15-8 favourite over the fourth-last, in what was to be a race-winning move.

With his rivals all feeling the pressure, Sprinter Sacre continued to turn the screw, just as he did in both his Arkle and Queen Mother successes, opening up a sizeable advantage on the run down to the second-last.

Although flicking through the top of the penultimate fence it failed to halt the momentum of Nicky Henderson’s pride and joy as he bounded on in imperious fashion to the final fence.

Clearing it decisively, the hugely-popular chaser stormed up the hill helped by the roar of more than 15,000 spectators to further widen his gap and claim an emotional 14-length success from Somersby.

Sprinter Sacre was cut from 16-1 to 6-1 for the Champion Chase by race sponsors Betway, while both William Hill and Paddy Power trimmed him from 14-1 and 16-1 respectively into 3-1 for the same race. RaceBets went 5-1 from 14-1.

Henderson said: “Everybody has done brilliantly with him. We’ve been happy with him and we are getting there. He just looks so different, his whole demeanour is completely different. He’s taken to us to some amazing places over the years, but probably nothing anywhere like that today.

“Everybody has worked their socks off since that happened [pulled up at Kempton in December 2013 and diagnosed with a heart problem].

“It’s been a long uphill battle. Of course there have been doubters and I’ve been one of them at times. We were just desperately keen to get that race into him. He was ready for it, he needed a race to bring him on. We are where we want to be.

“We’ll have to see how he is after this, but we’ll have a look at the Tingle Creek. It’s the obvious race.”

Today at Plumpton, Neil Mulholland can put the seal on a profitable few days by saddling Ashcott Boy to success in the 188Bet.co.uk Handicap Chase at Plumpton. The Wiltshire handler claimed a significant victory with Shantou Village at Cheltenham on Friday and must be in with a mighty shout at the East Sussex venue.

Ashcott Boy lines up on top of his form, having won tidily over fences at Worcester and then at Sedgefield in a novice handicap.

The handicapper has since had his say as he has gone up another 8lb, but Ashcott Boy might not be done with just yet.

The margin of his victory at Sedgefield was only a length, but he did very well to win as a first-fence error that day seemed to knock his confidence.

Be that as it may, he showed plenty of resolution to get back on the straight and narrow before Blades Lad was finally subdued.

The seven-year-old has always looked an appealing prospect over a slightly longer trip, so it will be very interesting to see how he gets on over just shy of two and a half miles.