- Cheltenham Festival, Day Two
Sacre sizzles in Champion Chase romp
Sprinter Sacre made it eight wins on the spin with a crowning display in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Nicky Henderson's charge has proved in a league of his own over fences and once again the brilliant seven-year-old delivered a supreme display to land the premier race over two miles.
There have been some brilliant winners of the race down the years, Flyingbolt, Badsworth Boy, Pearlyman, Barnbrook Again and Moscow Flyer among them. It is difficult to compare generations, but Sprinter Sacre could be the best we have seen over two miles in decades as he made the classy Sizing Europe look like a selling plater.
There was one moment of alarm when Sprinter Sacre hit the fourth from home, but it did not stop his momentum and he jumped the final three fences with elan and coasted home to score at 1/4 favouritism.
"He's a beautiful horse to ride," Geraghty said. "I've never ridden one as natural to jump. Things would have to go very wrong to go wrong.
"Once he's healthy and well, you get him relaxed and into a nice rhythm. He does the rest and he's a pleasure to ride.
"I've ridden some brilliant horses over the years, but the ease and the grace that he does it with sets him apart."
Mail De Bievre set out at a fierce gallop from the outset, but it did not cause any worries for Barry Geraghty aboard Sprinter Sacre who tanked along on the inside.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
- 1st: Sprinter Sacre 1/4f
2nd: Sizing Europe 6/1
3rd: Wishfull Thinking 25/1
Sizing Europe, the winner in 2011 and runner-up last year, is a high-class performer and he attempted to serve it up to Sprinter Sacre by taking up the running five from home. From that point they had the race between them, as the likes of Sanctuaire and Wishfull Thinking were never sighted.
Sizing Europe's forcing manoeuvre drew a mistake from Sprinter Sacre at the fourth last. It was a jolting mistake, but he was soon on an even keen and he jumped to the front three from home.
Sprinter Sacre surged ahead before the home turn and Sizing Europe was beaten long before stumbling on the turn for home.
The Irish veteran plugged on all the way to the line for second, but in truth there was no second as Sprinter Sacre threw in his best leap at the last, which drew gasps from sections of the crowd, and he was able to canter up the hill to register a quite brilliant victory.
Henderson, greeting his 49th Festival winner, said: "He's just very special. (I'm relieved) It's over.
"He just has that way of doing it. He finds it ridiculously easy - he just loves doing it. He loves to attack his fences. We are very lucky to have him.
"I hope people have enjoyed watching him.