Reinforcing his status as racing's great exciting chase prospect, Sprinter Sacre put on a display of utmost dominance by romping home to a fifteen length success in the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park, further enhancing his credentials as one of the greatest two mile chasers ever to grace British shores.
Just one week after Big Buck's had reminded his pending three mile hurdle rivals of his superiority, Sprinter Sacre went one better and, not only reminded his rivals of his superiority, but ground them into the ground with an exceptional display that will strike fear through anyone considering taking on the French-bred six year old at Cheltenham Festival, for which he is now a strong odds-on favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
A race billed as an anticipated match up between two potential superstars, Sprinter Sacre was to take on the enigmatic Sanctuaire from the Paul Nicholls stable. A quirky individual, Sanctuaire has thrived, and bolted clear, since being switched to fences by Nicholls, winning his three chases by a combined total of seventy-six lengths. With trainer and jockey, Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty, having already declared the match up against Sanctuaire as 'their biggest task yet', the main question on everyone's lips would be - just how far would Geraghty allow Sanctuaire to go in front.
As expected, Sanctuaire quickly set off in front, yet with Sprinter Sacre settling just behind Nicholls' as the runners headed towards the first few obstacles. However, as is the norm in his races, Sanctuaire was to quickly build up a fifteen length lead over his rival, jumping fences exuberantly in the process, as the runners headed down the back stretch.
As the seven runners ranged up alongside the railway tracks, bounding over the three railway fences, Sanctuaire's lead looked to be rapidly diminishing with Sprinter Sacre closing in on the Nicholls runner at alarming rate for Sanctuaire backers. With three fences to go, Sprinter Sacre had surged alongside Sanctuaire and had bounded clear by six lengths after the duo jumped the fence together.
Coming to the last, victory was assured, and the exceptional two mile chaser, Sprinter Sacre, could do no more but enjoy the rapturous applause that propelled towards his flickering ears. Kumbeshwar, a 25-1 outsider, had excelled throughout the closing stages to catch the dwindling Sanctuaire and grab second place. Sanctuaire, the second favourite, was to finish only third.
"We've always said it, he's got the wow factor" said Henderson, "I don't know if you can say he's the best chaser I've ever trained just yet, but he must be getting very close. I think he is a two miler through and through, I'm not saying he wouldn't get two and a half miles, but when you have got that blinding speed and ability to jump at that speed I cannot believe you'd want to be doing anything else.
"When you've got something special you want it to stay that way and anything but a good performance would have been disappointing. That was as good a two mile chase as you'll ever see - Sanctuaire went a screaming gallop and it was a tingling Tingle Creek.".
Sanctuaire, previously undefeated in three chase starts, now looks to have the Group 2 Celebration Chase at Sandown in April as his primary objective, yet a rematch with Sprinter Sacre also looks likely at Cheltenham this coming March.
Since his very first start over fences, Sprinter Sacre has jumped with exuberance, showed the world the talent he holds, and showed the exceptional pace at which he can propel himself from one side of a fence to another and not lose any momentum in the process. When watching Sprinter Sacre, you would barely believe he had just jumped a fence through the sheer lack of momentum lost as Geraghty sits motionless over each and every fence.
A void created by the retirement of flat racing's superstar, Frankel, and the Ditcheat duo of Kauto Star and Denman, Sprinter Sacre looks certain to take up where his predecessors left off, with many years of potential super stardom just the beginning of the tantalising prospects on offer for the awaiting fans and onlookers of the sport of kings.
Photos Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)