Sprinter Sacre in search of sparkle at Cheltenham

Nicky Henderson-trained nine-year-old may face up to 10 rivals in Shloer Chase on Sunday

Sprinter Sacre winning at  Punchestown  in 2013 before  heart problems  kept him out of action for more than a year. He makes a reappearance at Cheltenham next weekend and trainer Nicky Henderson is pleased with his preparation. Photograph: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Sprinter Sacre winning at Punchestown in 2013 before heart problems kept him out of action for more than a year. He makes a reappearance at Cheltenham next weekend and trainer Nicky Henderson is pleased with his preparation. Photograph: Donall Farmer/INPHO

 

Sprinter Sacre could face up to 10 rivals when he makes his seasonal reappearance in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday.

Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old appeared unbeatable after winning his first 10 starts over fences, but suffered a heart problem late in 2013 and was unable last season to recapture his old sparkle after returning from more than a year on the sidelines.

However, the Seven Barrows handler has been pleased with his preparation ahead of his comeback at Prestbury Park.

Potential rivals

Gold Cup

The only Irish-trained entrant is Willie Mullins’s Twinlight, who was pulled up in the Fortria Chase at Navan on Sunday.

Noel Meade was left with mixed emotions after Monksland was collared in the shadow of the post by Arctic Fire in the Lismullen Hurdle on Sunday. Having made most of the running, he appeared to have the Champion Hurdle runner-up beaten approaching the final flight but a slow jump gave Ruby Walsh one final chance to galvanise his mount and the champion jockey did not need another invitation.

Meade now needs to decide whether to send Monksland novice chasing or stay over hurdles with him.

“I’m happy with him, but also a bit disappointed not to win. If he’d jumped the last well he might have won,” said Meade.

Flemenstar will aim to secure his second John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase early next month, following his encouraging reappearance at Navan on Sunday.

It is almost three years since the 10-year-old ran out an all-the-way winner of the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One and he has suffered injury problems since.

However, there was a lot to like about his performance in finishing third in Sunday’s Fortria Chase, his first run since being trained by owner Stephen Curran’s son, Anthony.

Curran senior said: “He was back to his old self and jumped well. He just got tired. He needed the run badly.

Trainer Paul Nolan has been dealt a severe blow after stable star Defy Logic was fatally injured on the gallops. “He was doing a routine warm-up when he was fatally injured. It is a massive blow to the stable,” said the Co Wexford handler.

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