Sacre shows his class as he sprints home with stunning victory at Champion Chase
SPRINTER SACRE set alight this year's Cheltenham Festival with a spine-tingling victory in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Nicky Henderson's seven-year-old stretched his unbeaten record over fences to eight races with a visually astounding display in the feature race of the day.
Barry Geraghty's partner was sent on his way the 1-4 favourite, and easily justified those cramped odds in front of an expectant grandstand.
Sizing Europe, the winner in 2011 and runner-up last year, finished second, but was beaten out of sight.
Geraghty said: "He's a beautiful horse to ride.
"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."
Sprinter Sacre has over the last few seasons gained the moniker "the big, black aeroplane", and it is easy to see why.
The Caroline Mould-owned chaser evoked memories of the two-mile greats such as Moscow Flyer with some extraordinary leaps over the Cheltenham fences.
Henderson's inmate was in third for most of the early exchanges as the supplemented Mail De Bievre and Sizing Europe took the field along at a moderate pace.
Sizing Europe took the lead four out, but was swiftly joined by the winner at the next fence.
There was little in it at that stage, but that was as close as the race came to being a genuine contest.
A big jump at the penultimate fence sealed the deal as Geraghty's companion sauntered 19 lengths clear without coming off the bridle.
Sprinter Sacre was providing Henderson, the winning-most trainer at the Cheltenham Festival, with back-to-back Queen Mother triumphs after Finian's Rainbow struck in 2012.
Henderson, greeting his 49th Festival winner, said: "That was probably the worst five minutes of my life.
"Hopefully Barry had fun, but I'm glad it's over.
"It does leave you speechless. What he looks like, and what he does at home, is one thing, but what he does out there is something totally unique.
"He just has that way of doing it. He finds it ridiculously easy - he just loves doing it.
"We've talked about Punchestown, and I'm sure Richie Galway (Punchestown manager) would like us to talk about it a bit more.
"He is a two-miler and I don't think Aintree really will be him.
"There's a nice Grade One in Ireland (Boylesports.com Champion Chase) and maybe we go for that and then wrap him up.
"I hope people have enjoyed watching him."
Sizing Europe's trainer Henry de Bromhead accepted his horse had been beaten by a "special one".
He said: "We have been beaten by a phenomenon. We had a go, but came off second best.
"Andrew (Lynch, jockey) said he tripped on the path but that it made no difference to the result.
"He's still finished second in a Champion Chase and even at 11 he is still a very good horse, but we have been beaten by a special one.
"We made the decision to run in this (rather than Ryanair Chase or Gold Cup) and there is nothing we can do about that now.
"He was ridden to win the race. He jumped brilliant today and we know that he stays further so we will do whatever is best for the horse and I am sure Punchestown will come into it.
"He seems as good as ever, but the winner put us in our place."