Thursday 14 November 2019

Twinlight is among Sprinter rivals for Ascot return

Trainer Nicky Henderson has repeatedly stated that he does not want to bring his stable star Sprinter Sacre back on unsuitably heavy ground after over a year off the track
Trainer Nicky Henderson has repeatedly stated that he does not want to bring his stable star Sprinter Sacre back on unsuitably heavy ground after over a year off the track

Thomas Kelly

Sprinter Sacre, the highest-rated chaser in training, spearheads six confirmations for the Sodexo Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

Trainer Nicky Henderson has, however, repeatedly stated that he does not want to bring his stable star back on unsuitably heavy ground after over a year off the track, and plenty of rain has been forecast this week.

Sprinter Sacre has undergone extensive treatment in an effort to get him back to his brilliant best after he was pulled up with a fibrillating heart at Kempton in December 2013.

A racecourse gallop at Newbury, where he schooled over some fences, convinced Henderson the nine-year-old was on the right road.

But while it is still the intention to run this weekend, the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury on February 7 is the back-up plan.

Big-race jockey Barry Geraghty was on board for his gallop at Newbury and has his fingers crossed not too much rain falls between now and Saturday.

"The forecast is pretty wet and it just depends how bad it gets, we wouldn't want it too heavy," said Geraghty. "He's in good form, Nico (de Boinville) schooled him on Friday. I wasn't there, but the reports were good.

"I could understand why the bookmakers cut him (after his Newbury schooling session), even though it wasn't a race. He looked well and he seems to be reasonably well in himself."

Among his potential opponents are Tingle Creek winner Dodging Bullets, Somersby, which claimed this Grade One in 2012, Richard Lee's Grey Gold and the Willie Mullins-trained Twinlight.

Sprinter Sacre's stablemate French Opera has also been confirmed.

One rival which will not be travelling is Sizing Europe, with connections very much against the idea of running him in testing conditions.

Conditions at Ascot are described as good to soft, soft in places, but clerk of the course Chris Stickels expects the ground to ease during the week.

"We're likely to get another band of wet weather coming in on Wednesday and Thursday, before it then dries up again on Friday into Saturday," said Stickels. "I am expecting the ground to soften up a bit."

Elsewhere, Nigel Twiston-Davies intends to run The New One in the reopened StanJames.com Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock on Saturday - if the meeting survives the weather.

The going at the Merseyside venue is currently heavy and some 30 millimetres of rain is forecast before the weekend, with snow also a possibility.

Closer to home, dual winner On His Own is at the head of the weights for the Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase at Gowran on Thursday week.

The Willie Mullins-trained 11-year-old narrowly missed out in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, when a short-head second behind Lord Windermere, and recently occupied the same position in the Lexus Chase at Christmas.

Ted Walsh's Foxrock (10st 13lb) is likely to have his followers after a big run when second in the Paddy Power Chase, while the Tony Martin-trained Gallant Oscar is on 9st 11lb.

Make A Track (10st 6lb), Goonyella (9st 11lb) and 2013 winner Jadanli (9st 2lb) are other notable contenders.

Irish Independent

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