Sprint double?

  • By: Ian Ogg
  • Last Updated: January 14 2013, 16:30 GMT

At 26 years young, the Victor Chandler Chase is just a pimple on an adolescent's face rather than the deeply-etched crow's feet of the Cheltenham Gold Cup which was first run in 1819, but Ascot's two-mile one-furlong contest has quickly made its mark on the racing calendar.

Master Minded: The most recent of the three dual winners

Registered as the Clarence House Chase but better known as the Victor Chandler having been sponsored by the bookmaking form from inception in 1987, the race got off to an inauspicious start.

The very first running was abandoned, as was the second, but it has been onwards and upwards ever since Desert Orchid, conceding 22lb, beat Panto Prince by a short-head in 1989.

The remarkable grey had won the King George VI at Kempton just weeks earlier and, of course, achieved his famous victory in the Gold Cup just months later.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is, of course, the usual Festival target for Victor Chandler Chase runners and there has been no shortage of top two-milers lining up at Ascot over the years despite the race being run as a handicap until achieving its Grade One status in 2007.

Waterloo Boy, Sybillin, Deep Sensation, Ask Tom, Well Chief and Direct Route are among those to have run well in both races while Azertyuiop, conceding 19lb, went down by a neck to Isio in 1994 before making the most of Moscow Flyer's departure to charge up the Cheltenham hill in March.

Last year Finian's Rainbow was written off after Somersby burst his bubble in Berkshire only to bounce back and seize the Champion Chase crown from Sizing Europe with a blistering display.

Flagship Uberalles and Martha's Son have won both races but only three have done so in the same season.

The first was David Nicholson's tenacious streetfighter Viking Flagship in 1994 (a beaten favourite at Ascot in 1995 before winning a second Champion Chase), with the fragile but immensely-talented Call Equiname following suit in 1999.

The last of the trio was Master Minded, a dual winner of both races, who obliged at the unattractive odds of 1/4 and 4/11 in 2009, which brings us around to this year's renewal and Sprinter Sacre.

Nicky Henderson's brilliant chaser has scared off some of the potential opposition and there will be naysayers complaining about the lack of competitiveness that his presence has brought to the contest.

I encountered similar arguments when at Goodwood to see Frankel in the Qipco Sussex Stakes but I, like many on the Sussex Downs, had turned up in order to catch a glimpse of Sir Henry Cecil's superstar and I wasn't disappointed.

Similarly, I don't suppose there will be too many racegoers at Ascot on Saturday who will be disappointed if Sprinter Sacre routs the opposition in the manner that we expect.

It's not as if he is racing no-hopers with Somersby (vanquisher of reigning Champion Chase winner Finian's Rainbow) entered along with Sanctuaire and Wishfull Thinking - it's just that he's significantly better than the best of the rest.

Those heading to Ascot will - weather depending - have the opportunity to see a potential champion and one of the most exciting two-mile chasers that we have seen.

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