SPRINTER Sacre, the highest-rated chaser in training, spearheads six confirmations for the Sodexo Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
The steeplechasing superstar has not raced since being pulled up at Kempton in December 2013 with a fibrillating heart.
However, trainer Nicky Henderson has warned that he will not risk his stable star on unsuitably heavy ground – and the weather forecast for the Berkshire track is not encouraging.
If Sprinter Sacre, the 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase hero, swerves his Ascot date, the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury on February 7 is the back-up plan.
Big-race jockey Barry Geraghty was on board for the horse’s recent racecourse gallop at Newbury.
“He’s in good form, Nico de Boinville schooled him on Friday morning. I wasn’t there, but the reports were good,” said Geraghty.
“He looked well and he showed there he seems to be reasonably well in himself.”
Meanwhile, the Game Spirit Chase remains the intended comeback target for Sire De Grugy, the current Queen mother Champion Chase title-holder, after his own injury setback.
The nine-year-old has not run yet this season, but his work will step up a notch this week as trainer Gary Moore gears him up for an eagerly-anticipated Champion Chase clash with Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham in March.
“He’ll be going upsides on Wednesday morning when he’ll do his first proper bit of work,” said Moore’s son Jamie, who rides Sire De Grugy.
“The reason I was so gutted about his injury was that I honestly thought for the life of me that he was working even better than last year.
“The little operation he had in the summer, getting the chips out of his ankles, I think has helped him an incredible amount and I really do think he’ll do everything we ask of him this year.”
David Pipe is considering a tilt at the Betfred Cheltenham Cup with Dynaste, winner of last year’s Ryanair Chase under Tom Scudamore.
Despite concerns about the grey’s stamina, Pipe wrote on his blog last night: “With the Gold Cup looking to be wide open again this year (with the possible exception of Silviniaco Conti), I am sure no one would blame us for carefully weighing up the options.”
Meanwhile, Road To Riches will skip the Irish Hennessy and head straight for the Gold Cup.
Trainer Noel Meade has decided to stick to a tried and tested route and keep his stable star fresh for the blue riband event.
Today’s meeting at Ffos Las is a waterlogging victim.