It's becoming a regular fixture, isn't it? The sight of Sprinter Sacre storming clear from his rivals for yet another facile success, yet each and every time he reigns supreme we stand, admire and gasp at the sheer superiority of this scintillating French bred steeplechaser.
Try as they have, they are yet to get close to the stunning, scintillating star from Nicky Henderson's yard, yet the weather gods tried over and over again to derail this express locomotive another powerful run towards glory. Just seven days prior, the Sprinter Sacre Show was put on hold as Ascot fell to the unstoppable sheets of snow which ensured National Hunt racing would be put on hold for the time being. The show would not be derailed for a second time.
Seven days later, despite a plethora of show thrashing down upon the beautiful scenery surrounding the Cheltenham Racecourse, Cleeve Hill played out as the perfect backdrop for the delayed show which all had waited with bated breath for. Man hours aplenty had gone in to ensuring Cheltenham would race, their Festival Trials day was not an event that horses, trainers, jockeys and fans alike wanted to see fall to the weather gods, and Cheltenham delivered, as promised.
As Middleham Park Racing's Mad Moose caught a jump of twenty lengths at the start of the re-staged Victor Chandler Chase, Sprinter Sacre sat comfortably at the head of the chasing pack in second. Uncharacteristically his one time rival, Sanctuaire, sat reserved towards the back of the field in a move to try new tactics in an attempt to chase down Sprinter Sacre late on.
Exiting towards the back stretch, Sam Twiston-Davies and Mad Moose began to notably withdraw back towards the pack, allowing Sprinter Sacre to go on ahead to the delight of the crowd. As Mad Moose seemingly began to back track, the likes of Oiseau du Nuit, a previous Festival winner, and the more-fancied rivals Sanctuaire and Somersby began to loom and track the stunning Sprinter Sacre in a bid to position themselves best for a late challenge.
Somersby, the winner of last year's renewal, also formed part of a six rivals bidding to dethrone Henderson's champion in sticky ground conditions which Henderson himself had admitted was a concern prior to running. Making his seasonal reappearance, and his debut for Mick Channon, hopes were high that Somersby could provide a bold sighter towards the latter Spring targets.
As the runners headed towards the final few fences, Sprinter Sacre had bounded clear to a seemingly unassailable ten length lead, with Somersby sitting comfortably, without challenging, in second. Popping his fences for fun like a child devouring candy whilst observing his or her favourite cartoon, Sprinter Sacre installed a sense of amazement in the Cheltenham crowd, gasps of awe as each fence was jumped and as the stunning French bred drew closer and closer to the finishing line.
As the final fence loomed, Sprinter Sacre jumped exuberantly, enthusiastically and exceptionally before powering away from his rivals and stretching further clear up the Cheltenham hill run-in, a sight which remains rare. Mad Moose, the early leader, powered past his rivals yet again late on to register an unlikely, yet shrewd, second place ahead of Somersby for Middleham Park Racing whom have given their horse the chance to run against the very best this season. A decision which finally reaps well deserved rewards ahead of bigger days ahead.
"We're glad it's over. I didn't have reservations about running him, we had to run, but that ground - Barry was worried about it, I was worried he was a bit fresh - but everyone has done brilliant with him at home and we managed to keep going." said Henderson, "He can handle all ground I think, that's just what a good horse should do, he's just looked as good as he's always been. He is pretty special, isn't he?"
Avoidance is the only concern that looms boldly for Sprinter Sacre. In time, the rivals will inevitably drop away to provoke the doubters to reignite the comparisons to legends past and present. Just like Frankel and Big Buck's, the doubters will come, unjustly so, in a climate which so often sees dominative performances tainted with the bitter responses of the few, but does it matter? When witnessing a star stretch clear from his rivals to a rapturous round of applause, with many in the belief that he is the greatest they have ever seen, how can we taint that visual drug that inspires many and draws in vast quantities of new fans.
Sprinter Sacre, like Master Minded and Moscow Flyer before him, has injected a sense of unparalleled excitement into the Two Mile Chase division and has collected fans like a child collecting new toys in a time of unparalleled enjoyment. The Cheltenham Festival, for which Sprinter Sacre now sits as the overwhelming 1/3 favourite for the Champion Chase, looms large as the next stop for this unstoppable locomotive.
Few will want to see him beaten, many will want to see yet another dominative performance to upload to the visual memory banks of the National Hunt follower for many a year to come.
Photos Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)