2014 Champion Chase about finding EW alternatives to Sprinter Sacre
Sprinter Sacre’s dominance over the current crop of 2m chasers in 2013 was so mercilessly complete that perusing the Cheltenham 2014 odds for an alternative Champion Chase victor feels like a fool’s errand.
With those that stood up to him in last year’s renewal vanquished out of sight, logic dictates that second season chasers are more likely to provide fresh reason to oppose him than their more experienced counterparts.
However, the novices stepping up to senior level this term look sure to struggle against such a brilliant champion.
Only Simonsig can be said to have showed a level of class similar to that of a novice Sprinter Sacre in the 2012/13 campaign, with massive victories in his two pre-Cheltenham races.
Smashing Paul Nicholls’ Hinterland by 35 lengths in the Wayward Lad Novices Chase at Kempton was a performance that should have made even the most ardent Sprinter Sacre fan sit up and take note.
The margin of victory was some 11 lengths further than the champion chaser’s biggest ever win and regardless of the relative merit of their opponents, this suggests Simonsig could have a genuine chance of unsettling his more illustrious stablemate.
With Sprinter Sacre’s Cheltenham 2014 odds so short he could rate a more than viable alternative, although his trainer Nicky Henderson may prefer to route Simonsig elsewhere at the Festival to maximise his chance of winners.
With this in mind it could be worth casting the net a little wider in search of big-priced place chances and the Willie Mullins-trained Arvika Ligeonniere could be just such a likely candidate.
Out of sorts when pulled-up behind Simonsig in the 2013 Arkle he made amends in no uncertain terms when a nine-length winner from a strung-out field in the Punchestown equivalent two months later.
Though it has been suggested in the past that left-handed tracks like Cheltenham do not favour the son of Arvico, his fourth-place in the 2010 Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle at the track suggests that he is far from fatally inconvenienced by going anti-clockwise.