Tuesday 23 January 2018

Henderson calls on Captain as Sacre forced to miss out

Trainer Nicky Henderson with Sprinter Sacre
Trainer Nicky Henderson with Sprinter Sacre
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Nicky Henderson's 11th-hour decision to abort Sprinter Sacre's intended reappearance in tomorrow's Tingle Creek Chase must have left a few Irish handlers wishing they had made some speculative entries for Sandown's marquee Grade One.

Having flagged an unsatisfactory tracheal wash on Monday, the champion trainer duly didn't declare the sensational two-miler for the £135,000 race yesterday. Sprinter Sacre's lungs were re-examined, but his owner Caroline Mould revealed that the "results were just not good enough".

Henderson added: "His figures have improved quite dramatically but there is just one reading that is not satisfactory and we can't risk it.

"Now we can get him on some medication it will clear up in no time, but we couldn't give him anything earlier in the week."

Leopardstown Dial-A-Bet Chase at Christmas would be an obvious alternative starting point for a seven-year-old that is already widely acknowledged as being one of the most gifted steeplechasers of all time.

However, Henderson may be reluctant to travel so early in the season, nominating the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton or the Victor Chandler at Ascot in the new year as the races he will likely choose between.

Henderson and Barry Geraghty have a ready deputy for the Tingle Creek in the shape of Grade One winner Captain Conan, though there is an undeniable element of Hamlet without the prince, as the final nine-strong line-up lacks the championship quality that is normally synonymous with the contest.

Sizing Europe was the last Irish-trained horse to win the race in 2011, and, despite his 11 years, Henry de Bromhead's 167-rated former champion would still have had between 2lb and 53lb in hand over the nine runners on official ratings were he among the line-up.

Tony Martin's Flemenstar (169) and the improving Willie Mullins duo of Arvika Ligeonniere (161) and Twinlight (157) are two others that would surely have had a major say in Sprinter Sacre's absence.

As it is, Arvika Ligeonniere is expected to clash with stablemate Sir Des Champs in what promises to be a fascinating edition of Sunday's €80,000 John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown, with the progressive Twinlight pencilled in for the €45,000 Hilly Way Chase at Cork.

Irish Independent

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