Plenty of shrewd pundits will make Sprinter Sacre their ‘good thing’ of the meeting. This short-priced fancy comes up in the Arkle Chase, only the second race of the Cheltenham Festival but a guaranteed thriller.
Sure Nicky Henderson’s flying novice chaser looks a good thing on paper, but this is turf and Cheltenham turf at that. I can’t quite forget how the strong travelling Sprinter Sacre failed to get up the infamous Cheltenham hill in the Supreme Novices Hurdle this time last year.
Yes, this is fences. Yes, he is stronger. Yes, it could be argued he is better over fences than hurdles. Still there are some chinks in this steely solid favourite.
Another niggle is that you may think Sprinter Sacre will have it all his own way with a mere five rivals. But the connections of Cue Card have said it will not be a Tuesday stroll around the Prestbury Park – they will blast from the front. In other words they will test Sprinter Sacre’s questionable stamina to the full.
If Cue Card jumps adeptly at speed and does not repeat his error at this course in November, he might just bottom out Sprinter Sacre come after the last. He might even force a mistake out of the jolly. Alternatively it could prove Cue Card’s undoing and if he falls early and the pace slackens then my theories may hit the turf with Joe Tizzard’s backside.
If all goes to plan it may be the stamina-laden Cue Card who benefits or perhaps Al Ferof, who won the race Supreme Novices last year when Sprinter Sacre faded honourably but tamely into third. Another with course form, having won Grade 1, 2 & 3 races over hurdles at Cheltenham is Menorah. This is a different ball game, but there is no doubting his talent and ability.
So don’t be kidded by anyone’s hype that this is a forgone conclusion. The fences are there to be jumped, the opposition is full of talent and the hill will test his stamina once again. In short, if you are looking for something to oppose Sprinter Sacre then there are viable options. For me it is Cue Card, the dual Cheltenham winner and anticipated front runner, who catches the eye at around 7/1 generally with the bookies.