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Sprinter Sacre the star of the show
THE Cheltenham Festival, the biggest four days in National Hunt Racing, got under way on Tuesday and it hasn’t disappointed.
Horse racing needs star horses and racegoers witnessed an unbelievable performance on Wednesday by Sprinter Sacre, who came home with19 lengths to spare.
Barry Geraghty, who rode one of the recent two-miling greatsMoscow Flyer,hadtobe measured in order not to denigrate the former champion, but he too struggled to do his mountjustice after he had just dismantled last year’s runnerupand2011 winnerSizingEurope.
Sprinter Sacre has easily slipped into the position of poster-boy for the sport, vacated by both Frankel on the Flat and Kauto Star in the National Hunt.
“That was probably the worst five minutes of my life,”
said trainer Nicky Henderson after his 49th Festival winner, which took him ahead of his rival Paul Nicholls in the season-long trainers’ championship.
“It was hell. As long as Barry enjoyed it, that’s great, butit’s over.
“He was what we hoped we would see. It does leave you speechless. What he looks like and what he does at home is one thing, but what he does out there is totally unique.”
He went on: “It’s pure ability. He’s nearly that sort of perfect racehorse.
“It’s not always the goodlooking ones that are the good ones, but in this case it is. He has that wow factor.
Geraghty said: “He’s a beautiful horse to ride. I’ve never ridden one as naturalto jump.
Things would have to go very wrong to go wrong.
“I’ve ridden some brilliant horses over the years, but the ease and the grace that he does it with sets him apart.
“It’s hard to compare like with like. Moscow Flyer was a super horse, but this horse is unbelievable. It’s hard to take in.”
On Tuesday Hurricane Fly regained his crown under Ruby Walsh in the Stan James Champion Hurdle.
Winner of the race in 2011 but beaten into third when an odds-on favourite 12 months ago, the nine-year-old was well supported prior to the off and sent offthe 13/8 favourite.
Supporters of the Willie Mullins-trained gelding would have been worried at halfway as Walsh was already getting lower in the saddle.
But he began to pick up coming down the hill and was in the lead soon after jumping the second last.
Hurricane Fly jumped the final flight smoothly and dug deep on the run-in to score by two and a half lengths.
Last year’s winner Rock On Ruby was second, with Countrywide Flame third.
Walsh said: “I can’t say I was overly confident – from the word ‘go’ he didn’t travel as well as he can.
“He’s an unbelievably big heart for a small horse.”
Today is the highlight of the week with the Cheltenham Gold Cup taking centre stage at 3.20pm.
Eleven horses face the starter and Nicky Henderson will saddle favourite Bobs Worth.
Malton trainer Malcolm Jefferson saddles Cape Tribulation whoisalivelyoutsiderbut the one theallhave tobeat,for me, is the Paul Nichollstrained Silviniaco Conti.
The seven-year-old is three out of three this year and bids to give Paul Nicholls is fifth winner in the blue riband event.