RACING AHEAD with Tony McCormick
Racing pundit Tony McCormick from www.irishbigracetrends.com beforetheoff.com and racing radio station racingfm.com looks back at the weekend’s action in Great Britain and Ireland, while the countdown to the Cheltenham continues with your Festival Notebook.
Sire De Grugy got his season back on track with a fine weight-carrying display in the Rifles Handicap Chase at Chepstow, on Saturday.
Last year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase hero only made his seasonal reappearance at Newbury two weeks ago following a setback, and that run did not go to plan as he unseated Jamie Moore. Sent off the 5-4 favourite despite conceding upwards of 20lb, Sire De Grugy made amends in style as he oozed class throughout.
Moore told At The Races: “You could see he came up out of my hands a couple of times, which he never really did at Newbury. He’s back on song now. Grey Gold is a good horse, but he put him in his place.
“He travelled well and coming up the straight I was thinking ‘this is him’ and I was buzzing. I gave him a couple of flicks and he got a bit tired at the last, but that was probably giving the weight away.”
Cheltenham Festival Notebook: Nicky Henderson is optimistic about the chances of Sprinter Sacre regaining the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
Despite only finishing second on his comeback run in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot, the Seven Barrows handler feels satisfied with where he is with the nine-year old heading to Prestbury Park.
Henderson said: “The early parts were hard work and we were just waiting for that spark to come back. You cannot force it to happen but we are as good as we have been for a very long time. We have had our one run and he has done a lot of work since and he is spot on.
”I am not saying he is what he was for two years as he was ridiculously unbeatable no matter what anybody threw at him. I am not confident but pretty optimistic and all has gone according to plan.”
Willie Mullins has given a quick couple of lines on a selection of his runners heading to Prestbury Park.
ARCTIC FIRE: He’s the one in the Champion Hurdle that is improving all the time. I still haven’t got the best out of him. If he doesn’t win the champion, he’ll win a really big race over hurdles.
DJAKADAM: He was very good last time out. Ruby said he’d never gone as easy in the Thyestes, it was a Gold Cup performance and that’s the plan.
CHAMPAGNE FEVER: I imagine it will be the Champion Chase. Probably after his performance in the other you might have him go for the Ryanair, but that’s the way connections are leaning. That last victory has made him a different horse.
OUTLANDER: I’d imagine he’ll run in the Neptune. He’s got Neptune written all over him.
NICHOLS CANYON: He can go over any trip. The owner hopes he has a new Inglis Drever. I reckon he’ll end up in the Neptune.
DOUVAN: He will go for the Supreme Novices’ and we’ll take anything on. He’s one of the nicest horses we have ever had going to Cheltenham.
FAUGHEEN: He’s done everything right. I asked Ruby if he needed another race after Kempton. He just said ‘No’.
VAUTOUR: I still feel like I’ve got a good bit of work to do with him, but I still think it will come. I’m heading towards the JLT.
UN DE SCEAUX: It’s going to be tough for him coming up that hill, but he has every chance. The press and the punters have decided if he stands he wins.
DON POLI: I think Gigginstown and Bryan Cooper might prefer the RSA and I might prefer him to run in the four-miler. He’s just so lazy, four miles will be right up his street.
GLENS MELODY: She’s in great form and will go straight for the Mares’ race.
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