Cheltenham Festival 2015: Queen Mother Champion Chase preview (15:20)
Sire De Grugy looked as good as ever when winning last time out, and is taken to successfully defend his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown in a mouthwatering renewal.
Trained by Gary Moore, this gelding took advantage of Sprinter Sacre’s absence to land the spoils 12 months ago by six lengths from Somersby.
The nine-year-old suffered then an injury after landing the Grade 1 Celebration Chase on his final start last season, and unseated jockey Jamie Moore on his belated return to action in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.
However, Sire De Grugy showed he was none the worse for that mishap last time oiut at Chepstow when oozing class to concede 20lb and upwards to his rivals and run out an easy winner.
This nine-year-old jumped superbly throughout in the hands of regular ride Moore and, after cruising to the front two from home, only had to be shaken-up to go clear approaching the last and score by seven lengths.
The fact that he is not trained by a high-profile and fashionable trainer means that Sire De Grugy’s efforts often don’t get the recognition they deserve, and to me he looks to have outstanding claims.
Former winner Sprinter Sacre made a highly encouraging comeback when runner-up to Dodging Bullets in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot after over a year on the sidelines and looks sure to come on significantly for the run.
The nine-year-old jumped well and raced with plenty of zest before tiring approaching the final fence and was then tenderly handled by jockey Barry Geraghty.
It was an effort which suggested a huge engine remained, and Sprinter never came off the bridle when slamming Sizing Europe by 19 lengths in the 2013 running of this Festival contest.
The big question is whether the horse dubbed the black aeroplane will improve significantly for that outing and find when push is come to shove.
Henderson has stated that he could not be more pleased with Sprinter and, although it would be great to see him regain his crown, I feel Sire De Grugy is a more solid betting proposition.
Dodging Bullets is the up-and coming horse in the field and fancied by many, after wins in the Tingle Creek and Clarence House.
The big worry is that Paul Nicholls gelding he has failed to shine at previous Festivals and his form usually tails off in the spring.
Champagne Fever will not run.