Sprinter's Irish journey far more than a lap of honour
They have somehow managed to coax the trainers of four other horses to turn it into something that might vaguely be presented as a race, but nobody is under any illusions. For the appearance of Sprinter Sacre on its opening day essentially serves as a ceremonial seal on what was already being billed, after unprecedented Irish success at Cheltenham last month, as the best Punchestown Festival yet.
The notion that his unbeaten record in chases might be in the slightest danger is confined to that last kernel of uncertainty which must subsist so long as any thoroughbred is invited to gallop for two miles through the mud and find his way across a dozen birch fences. Otherwise the Boylesports Champion Chase should prove as close to a lap of honour as might be encountered in a sport defined by its unpredictability.
Nicky Henderson will not be looking at it that way, naturally. The man who this week seals his third trainers' championship, and his first since 1987, can only really savour the privilege of supervising this glorious champion when he has welcomed a grinning Barry Geraghty back to the winner's enclosure. Even an assignment like this, on the face of it far more straightforward than the one Sprinter Sacre breezed through at Aintree earlier this month, takes Henderson through a spectrum of dread.
"You have to be mindful of horses at this time of year," Henderson admitted yesterday. "He's been to Cheltenham, he's been to Aintree. It's quite easy to say he's not getting terribly hard races, but those Festivals take quite a bit out of horses, whatever happens. But we've always said we'd like to take him over there."
In being prepared to have another go with Sizing Europe, the veteran treated with such startling disdain in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Henry De Bromhead may simply be reciprocating with a sporting gesture of his own. But Sizing Europe won this race in awful conditions last year, and can be relied upon to exploit any sudden chink in the hot favourite's armour. "It's the old cliché," De Bromhead said. "You should never be afraid of the one horse, as anything can happen."
CHRIS McGRATH'S NAP: No Truth (3.20 Wolverhampton)
Very well-bred filly who found due improvement stepped up to this trip round here to win her maiden.
NEXT BEST: Maisie's Moon (5.35 Wolverhampton)
WHERE THE MONEY'S GOING: Ocovango is 12-1 from 16-1 with Ladbrokes for the Investec Derby.
peopleContenders for Time magazine's Person of the Year are a mixture of the good, the bad and the holy
newsAs the world remembers Mandela the hero, the prison where he spent 27 years seems all the more brutal
tvSteven Moffat reveals the actor was dying to take on the role of the Time Lord and says he is excited to see what he will do with the character
sportBayern Munich 2 Manchester City 3: City come from two down to beat reigning European Champions
arts + ents... and a chance to paint Booker Prize winning author Hilary Mantel
danceUnder Tamara Rojo's inspired direction, it seems possible that it could challenge the dominance of the Royal Ballet. We meet some established names and rising stars
travelDiscover Uruguay's jet-set beach resort, an Atlantic enclave with plenty of art and culture to explore on the side
Latest in Sport
Transfer news round-up: Barcelona to offer £37m for Manchester United striker Robin van Persie; Manuel Neuer interests Manchester City; Luiz Gustavo on Tottenham radar
Roy Keane omits Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs from 'greatest' Manchester United team
Gareth Bale puts five-bedroom Essex mansion up for sale at £2.2m following £86m switch from Tottenham to Real Madrid
Former England captain Mick Mills 'turned a blind eye' to initiation ceremony abuse at Stoke City, which included sexual assault dubbed 'The Glove'
Manchester United player ratings: The best (and worst) performers for David Moyes during the season so far
- 1 Mountain goats' miraculous escape from avalanche captured in dramatic video footage
- 2 It’s shameful that our universities have accepted gender segregation under pressure from the most oppressive religious fanatics
- 3 Sir Ian McKellen hits back at Damian Lewis' 'fruity actor' claims
- 4 Kenyan politician Mike Sonko left red-faced after photoshopping himself next to Nelson Mandela
- 5 Selfie at funeral: Cameron squeezes in on Obama snap at Mandela memorial
£35000 - £44000 per annum + outstanding company benefits: Pro-Recruitment Grou...
£25k per anunum: Charter Selection: A $2 Billion automotive information group ...
attractive: Citifocus: Highly prestigious Investment Management house based in...
£30,500 per annum: London-Tokyo Property Services Ltd.: Central London based J...