Dodging Bullets wins the Champion Chase: Sam Twiston-Davies takes second win as Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy come up short

Neither Sprinter Sacre nor Sire De Grugy were able to challenge as Dodging Bullets, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies, took a famous victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase

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The Independent Online

Dodging Bullets took a narrow victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham Festival to continue his blossoming reputation as one of the most improved horses this season.

In the build up to the race, all the talk was about former winners Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy, with punters backing the 2013 and 2014 winners respectively right up until the start of the race.

But neither horse impressed amid concerns over their fitness in recent months, and instead it was Special Tiara who led early from the front by eight lengths. But as they approached the third jump from home, Special Tiara was pulled back just as Sprinter Sacre fell away to leave four horses at the front.

 

Even more surprisingly was the sight of Sire De Grugy failing to challenge the front three, and as they raced into the final furlong it was Dodging Bullets who pulled clear from the middle of the trio to clinch a famous victory, a length and a half ahead of Somersby and early leader Special Tiara.

The big story before hand was the late withdrawal of Champagne Fever, who was confirmed as a non-runner on the morning of the race, while Sprinter Sacre did not jump well at all throughout the race and stopped quickly from the home turn before being pulled up by Barry Geraghty.

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Twiston-Davies celebrates victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Dodging Bullets

The victory represented a second straight win for jockey Sam Twiston-Davies, who had just rode Aux Ptits Soins to victory in the Coral Cup.

Twiston-Davies said: "What a horse, Harry Derham and the team have done a great job - Harry rides him all the time wouldn't let Frankie Dettori ride him at home when he came down the other day, which says a lot.

"I need to get my breath back, I'm shaking a bit!

"I missed two out a bit, I was almost going too well."

Nicholls said: "That was absolutely awesome.

"It's good for the owners and good for the team.

"The progress he's made has been absolutely phenomonal.

"He's got better and better."

Dettori said: "Sam gave him a fantastic ride. He jumped like a stag.

"He was meant to win a Derby but this is second best.

"My legs were shaking a little bit. What a horse."

Nicholls went on: "He should have been favourite on form.

"I couldn't see why the other two (Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy) were ahead of him in the market.

"Progressive horses usually come out on top.

"We know where we are going with him now. He's such a special horse."

Winning owner Martin Broughton said: "The anticipation is almost too much, and when you get to the race itself, you just want them to come back safe.

"All the way round I got more and more confident. It was all going exactly to plan.

"This is fantastic. I'm absolutely ecstatic.

"It's all been Sprinter versus Sire. I'm happy under the radar."

Trainer Nicky Henderson said Sprinter Sacre will be given a thorough check-up before he can consider any notion of retirement for the former champion chaser.

Henderson said: "His heart is OK, which is the main thing.

"He'll be scoped and then we'll know a lot more after that.

"Barry said he was a bit noisy going up the back and it sounds like it's something internal.

"We'll scope him now. There was a trace of blood after Ascot, so you would have to be suspicious in that department.

"Once we've done the tests we'll let everyone know.

"We've only just unsaddled and are trying to gather our thoughts.

"I don't think we can make any predictions today as to the future.

"If there's a switch we can find that gets rids of what is affecting him today, who knows."

Mick Channon, trainer of Festival veteran Somersby, said: "He's been in great form, it was only really the race at Ascot (Clarence House) where he disappointed. He has run pound for pound to his Tingle Creek form and run his race - I'm delighted for everybody."

Additional reporting by PA

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