Sacre "as vulnerable as he's ever been"

  • By: Will Hayler
  • Last Updated: December 27 2013, 15:18 GMT

Nicky Henderson has a nice new Christmas haircut but he doesn't look as happy as you might expect as he stands in the winner's enclosure, about 10 minutes after the victory of My Tent Or Yours in the William Hill Christmas Hurdle.

Sprinter Sacre: Eagerly-awaited return or not?
Sprinter Sacre: Eagerly-awaited return or not?

Yes, his pockets have personally been lined by several thousand pounds for his share of the winner's prize money, but there is little air of self-satisfied contentment.

Instead, more than 24 hours before Sprinter Sacre lines up in the Desert Orchid Chase, the trainer's nerves are already somewhere near explosion point.

Sure, Silviniaco Conti deserves all the plaudits for the hardy attitude he displayed in grinding down Cue Card to win the King George, but an on-song Sprinter Sacre would have his measure over two miles, two and a half miles and more than likely over three miles too.

The king of steeplechasing returns to action against Sire De Grugy and four other rivals in a contest to which so many are looking forward. But not Henderson.

'Do you sleep well before Sprinter Sacre runs?' someone asks, already knowing the answer that they are going to get. "No, and I certainly won't tonight," comes the reply. "In fact, for two pins I'd take him out now. I hate it, I absolutely dread it.

"Is he vulnerable? Of course he's vulnerable. He's as vulnerable as he's ever been. He's well, he seems to be over his little problem and I'm pleased with him but the purpose of this run is to bring him on for [the Clarence Hourse Chase] at Ascot and he's going to come on for it.

"He's up against Sire De Grugy, who is basically the best there is bar him on this side of the Irish Sea - in fact, it's a situation not unlike My Tent Or Yours and The New One. They are the best in Britain and if he's going to be found out, it could be here."

Only "a ridiculous amount of rain", the trainer adds, would see Sprinter Sacre ruled out of the race due to the going, despite it catching out some of Henderson's other runners on the Boxing Day card.

"I don't think I could do it to Kempton after the effort they have gone to, even putting some extra money into the race - although it's gone and attracted Sire De Grugy too, who might not even have run here otherwise," he goes on.

"There is an enormous amount of responsibility when you have a horse like him, but you've got to start somewhere and he desperately needs a run now.

"It feels like nothing but an impressive win will be good enough and that's never a good situation to be in."

The stage might be a little soggier than all bar connections of Sire De Grugy would have hoped, but it's still set for a starring performance. Now all Sprinter Sacre has to do is something that none of the six favourites managed on the first day of the meeting and win.

Does the aeroplane still have his wings?

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