- Horse Racing
Sprinter made to work for Punchestown win
Sprinter Sacre made it 10 from 10 over fences with victory in the Boylesports.com Champion Chase.
Having proved peerless over fences in his native England, Ncky Henderson's charge gave Ireland a glimpse of his supreme talent with another fine display on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival.
The seven-year-old has oozed class in his runs over fences, treating his rivals with disdain, but he had to show battling qualities to see off chiselled veteran Sizing Europe on his first venture to race in Ireland.
Sprinter Sacre did not jump with his usual elan early on, although he did travel with all his customary exuberance. Time and again Barry Geraghty had to rein in his mount to keep him in behind the front-running Sizing Europe.
A big jump at the end of the back straight brought Sprinter Sacre alongside Sizing Europe turning for home and the writing looked to be on the wall for the veteran as he was under pressure, while Geaghty was motionless.
But Sizing Europe rarely shirks a battle and he responded superbly as the pair jumped the second last in unison. For the first time over fences, Geraghty had to get serious with his mount. But to Sprinter Sacre's credit, he forged to the front just before the last and stayed on under strong driving to pull away.
It may not have been a vintage display at the end of a long season, but it showed Sprinter Sacre can fight when asked.
Geraghty was also in winning form aboard Jezki, who overturned Cheltenham Festival form with Champagne Fever in some style in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
As at Cheltenham, Ruby Walsh attempted to make all aboard Champagne Fever but he was powerless to resist the turn of foot of Jezki who eased past heading to the last and sauntered clear to hand Jessica Harrington a grade one win.