Henderson has no concerns for Sprinter Sacre
Trainer ready to take chance in Champions Chase at Punchestown
Sprinter Sacre, with Sarah Shreeve up, right, and Long Run, with Helen Green up, during an early morning workout at the Punchestown all-weather area on Monday. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Nicky Henderson is happy for Sprinter Sacre to take his chance on testing ground in the Boylesports.com Champion Chase at Punchestown on Tuesday afternoon.
Henderson has been in contact with Punchestown’s general manager Richie Galway on a daily basis for the past week to check on conditions.
Stable jockey Barry Geraghty was also sent to walk the track and reported back that conditions were not that desperate, especially as the feature event on the opening day of the Festival is the first race over fences.
Throw in the fact that Sprinter Sacre won the rearranged Victor Chandler at Cheltenham in January on heavy ground, and Henderson’s fears have abated.
“We’ve been checking the weather all the time and have kept in daily touch with Richie Galway,” said the Seven Barrows maestro
“The horse travelled over well on Sunday, and Barry walked the course and was happy.
“Some of it (the ground) will not be too bad and we are fortunate as it will be the first chase race of the meeting.
“We had concerns earlier in the year about the ground, but it was heavy at Cheltenham (in January).
“He’s won on that heavy ground before so it’s not like we are going into unknown territory.
“We’ve always said we’d like to take him over (to Ireland). It’s nice to be able to go, it’s always been a great meeting and I think the horse deserves to go there.”
With the ground riding so testing, Henry de Bromhead admits he had little option but to run Sizing Europe against his Cheltenham conqueror rather than over three miles later in the week.
“We had the choice again, but with the ground as it is it forced our hand somewhat,” said De Bromhead.
“It’s the old cliche — you should never be afraid of the one horse as anything can happen. He seems in great form at home so we’ll see how we get on.
“He (Sprinter Sacre) fairly put us away at Cheltenham but we just haven’t got the ground to step him up in trip so we’ll stick to two miles and do right by the horse.
“As for Days Hotel, he will love the ground and he’s a good jumper so deserves to take his chance — he isn’t a pacemaker at all.
“With Andrew (Lynch, jockey) on Europe, Philip Enright rides him. He was on him in the Hilly Way earlier this season and got on very well with him.
“He’s a good jockey and he should get a very nice ride. He’s got a lot to find on Europe and even more on Sprinter Sacre, but there’s lots of prize-money.”
Foildubh has made great progress this season for John Ryan and finally gained the big win his efforts deserved last time out.
Paul Carberry returns from a minor injury to maintain the successful partnership.
“The horse is in great form but ground is the key to him, I hope it dries up a bit,” said Ryan.
“Last time at Fairyhouse was the best ground he’s had all year, it made all the difference.
“If it does dry he’ll run a big race, although I’m not saying we’ll beat Sprinter Sacre.
“It’s great for Punchestown and Irish racing that he’s coming over but I just wish it was next year instead.
“I suppose there is a question mark about him travelling away from home for the first time but, for me, he’s the best we’ve seen since Arkle.
“Nicky Henderson has always been a big supporter of Punchestown and Irish racing and I’m pleased he’s champion trainer again as he’s such a gentleman.
“We’re in the race for second, I think. We’re worse off at the weights with Days Hotel but we beat him with plenty in hand.
“Having Paul is a big plus, he took a few days off just to make sure he was right.
“Foildubh is only a second-season novice and it’s only his third real season in training. He’s been a revelation for me.”
Paul Nolan accepts Noble Prince faces a tall order, but with prize-money down to fifth, the Co Wexford handler thought he may as well take his chance.
“He got injured at Aintree on his first run and he’s just had two runs over hurdles since,” said Nolan.
“I thought he ran a bit better than he did the last day so we’re sending him back over fences now. There’s six grand just for finishing fifth is he gets around.”