SPRINTER Sacre ran out a hugely-impressive winner of the Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase on his seasonal bow at Sandown.
Nicky Henderson’s charge arrived unbeaten in five chase starts last term and he extended that run to six in the hands of Barry Geraghty.
Assuming control from the Pond Fence, the 4-11 favourite accelerated away to claim the Grade One prize by 15 lengths. Much had been made of the showdown between Sprinter Sacre and the Paul Nicholls-trained Sanctuaire but it turned into a one-horse race on the day.
Ruby Walsh set out to make all aboard Sanctuaire and Sprinter Sacre was a keen early on, pulling into second as the pair built up a healthy advantage over the field. Geraghty soon had Sprinter Sacre lobbing along nicely in second and was happy to let Sanctuaire build up an eight-length lead early on before starting to reel him back in with the minimum of effort.
When he made his move, the response was immediate and Sprinter Sacre barely extended as he pulled away from the toiling Sanctuaire. Two excellent leaps at the final couple of fences merely enhanced the distance and Sprinter Sacre was allowed to gallop home a comfortable wide-margin winner.
Sanctuaire paid for his early exploits as he was eventually caught for second by the fast-finishing Kumbeshwar.
Henderson said: “He has got the ‘wow’ factor. It’s been a long time since Aintree and I admit to being petrified about Sanctuaire.
“I knew that horse had got pace and would put it into the race which would stretch anybody and it was as soft as our fellow would ever want to go on. He’s just class, isn’t he? I knew that I had something a bit special and I just wanted it to stay that way. That’s as good a two-mile chase as you’ll ever see.
“He will probably go for the Victor Chandler and Cheltenham, I don’t know for sure, but there aren’t that many options and then on to Aintree or Punchestown.”
Geraghty partnered Moscow Flyer to win 10 Grade One chases, including two Queen Mother Champion Chases, and he believes Sprinter Sacre compares favourably.
He added: “He’s the closest I have ridden to Moscow. Time will tell but he’s going the right way. He’s the most natural I have ever ridden and so far, so good.”
At Aintree, Hello Bud rolled back the years to win the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase for a second time, the highlight of a memorable 193-1 treble for trainer Nigel Twiston- Davies and his jockey son Sam.
As well as lifting the other race run over the Grand National fences with Little Josh, they also struck with Master Of The Sea. But it was 14-year-old Hello Bud (14-1), who took the plaudits.
Successful in 2010 and running in this race for a fourth time, the veteran answered his rider’s every call. Join Together was clawing back the deficit with every stride from the elbow but was still a neck down at the line.
The winning jockey said: “He absolutely ran his heart out for me. He means everything to me. I just can’t tell you just how much I love his horse. He’s given us so much pleasure over the years. It’s such an emotional moment.”
The winning trainer added: “The run-in was just awful but thank goodness he hung on.
“As to the future, let’s see. How can you really say retire when he obviously enjoys it so much?”