Sprinter among 26 in Champion
Sprinter Sacre's bid to win the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase for the second year running remains alive after 26 horses were entered for the race.
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The superstar chaser's unbeaten record came to a dramatic end when he was pulled up at Kempton last month and subsequently found to have a fibrilating heart.
Having satisfied his trainer Nicky Henderson and equine heart specialist Celia Marr of his wellbeing since, Sprinter Sacre is back in training, but it remains uncertain whether he will be able to return in time to defend his crown.
Henderson has also entered Kid Cassidy and French Opera in the £350,000 contest, while Paul Nicholls has entered Kauto Stone and Al Ferof, along with novices Hinterland and Dodging Bullets, both of whom are prominent in the betting for the Racing Post Arkle Trophy 24 hours earlier.
The race's 2011 winner Sizing Europe is entered in the contest, along with other past Cheltenham Festival heroes Alderwood, Benefficient and Oiseau De Nuit.
Willie Mullins has entered Arvika Ligeonniere and Twinlight, while the Tony Martin-trained Savello, Shark Hanlon's Hidden Cyclone and Henry De Bromhead's Special Tiara, stablemate of Sizing Europe, are among the other Irish entries.
De Bromhead reported: "Hopefully, Sizing Europe will run in either the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase or the Ryanair Chase. They are provisional entries and we are not leaning either way at this stage.
"He has been fine since his run at Leopardstown. He was a little disappointing and didn't really attack his fences as he normally does, but there were various reasons with the ground being the main one. He will go straight to Cheltenham now and hopefully he can bounce back.
"The BetVictor Champion Chase is a race we are very much looking at for Special Tiara. We were delighted with his latest run at Cheltenham where the ground there was still a little bit soft for him.
"He has been in great form since then and we were going to run him at Christmas, but the ground went against him everywhere, so we decided to wait.
"He's in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot next Saturday (January 18) and he might go there depending on ground or otherwise he will run in the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown at the beginning of February."
Sprinter Sacre is Sky Bet's 10/11 favourite for the race, with Sire De Grugy next best at 7/2 and Hidden Cyclone, Arvika Ligeonniere and Benefficient next in the market at 10/1.
"With so much uncertainty over Sprinter Sacre's participation, it's no surprise to see trainers making a handful of speculative entries and the likes of Al Ferof and Benefficient both particularly take the eye," said spokesman Michael Shinners.
"We've put Al Ferof in at 25/1, but you'd have to think he'd be a much shorter price on the day if he lined up here rather in the Ryanair or the Gold Cup."
Bet Victor Champion Chase: Sky Bet prices: 10/11 Sprinter Sacre, 7'2 Sire De Grugy, 10/1 Hidden Cylcone, Arviva Ligeonniere, Benefficient 12/1 Captain Conan, 14/1 Somersby, Twinlight, 20 Bar.