Sprinter Sacre the Pick of the Cheltenham Bound Youngsters
With so much excitement currently surrounding the many talented young chasers on the National Hunt scene, the Novice races at the Cheltenham Festival are some of the most eagerly awaited in years.
Last year saw the emergence of Long Run who at the age of six, won the two most prestigious chases in the country, the King George Vl and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, defeating the great Kauto Star twice in the process. Although he relinquished his grip on the "King George" back to Kauto Star back in December, he is still the clear favourite to win back-to-back Gold Cups after he made a return to winning ways at Newbury on Friday by landing the Denman Chase.
This season's equivalent of Long Run could well be Grands Crus who has made rapid progress since stepping tackling the bigger obstacles. Three wins from three starts, including a Grade 1 Novice Chase over 3 miles has seen the David Pipe trained seven year old billed as a potential future superstar, the first steps to which could be taken in the 2012 Gold Cup, where he is set to take on Long Run and Kauto Star amongst others and is a 10/1 chance to upset the odds., However, whether Grands Crus runs in the Gold Cup or not this season is still to be decided by trainer David Pipe but if not, he will run in the RSA Chase, which would be easier pickings for the seven year old and is subsequently the 5/2 antepost favourite.
Other young horses to make their mark following their transition from hurdles to fences include Peddlers Cross from the Donald McCain yard, who was second in the Champion Hurdle last season. Al Ferof, winner of the Supreme Novice Hurdle a year ago is a particular favourite of trainer, Paul Nicholls and a Grade 1 & 2 winner in Novice Chases. Bobs Worth and Cue Card both former Festival winners have impressed and will improve.
It would appear that the clues to Sprinter Sacre's potential were clear to be seen after his demolition job on Peddlers Cross in the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Chase back in December but many could have been forgiven for thinking that day that Peddlers Cross was wrong and the 16 length defeat inflicted upon him by Sprinter Sacre was not a true reflection of the gulf between the two. However, that does not appear to be the case now with the only question unanswered being, just how good is Sprinter Sacre?
He is as short as even money to win the Arkle Challenge Trophy at this year’s Festival and should he justify that price, it will be onwards and upwards as well as confrontation time with many of those mentioned above next season, possibly even in the Gold Cup itself or Queen Mother if he is not suited by the longer distance races.
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