SPRINTER SACRE is set to line up for the Sodexo Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday after trainer Nicky Henderson “pressed the green button” following an all-important walk of the course this morning.
The brilliant nine-year-old is in line to make his first competitive appearance since suffering a well-documented heart problem when pulling up in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton in December 2013.
Henderson voiced concerns about the prospect of testing ground earlier in the week, but big-race jockey Barry Geraghty was happy when assessing the course on Wednesday and Henderson is keen to let his stable star line up after checking on conditions himself this morning.
Henderson said: “They had 10 millimetres of rain overnight, but it’s not heavy ground and we’re going ahead.
“Barry was happy when he walked the course yesterday and I was probably seeing it at its worst this morning. It shouldn’t get any worse than it is today and it might improve, so I think we’ve got to go.
“We need to get a run into him and this is the obvious opportunity.
“We’ve pressed the green button, so let’s see what happens.”
Clerk of the course Chris Stickels confirmed the track was in good shape after the latest batch of rain overnight and was pleased conditions had encouraged Henderson to declare his star chaser.
“The track looks fine. It’s soft ground at the minute after 10 millimetres of rain overnight. It’s taken it quite well and hopefully we won’t see too much more rain between now and the meeting,” he said.
“We haven’t got a large band of rain coming in, but there is always a risk of showers today, tomorrow and Saturday. We are not expecting the same volume of rain again.
“After he walked the course, Nicky Henderson was happy enough to declare Sprinter Sacre.”
Paul Nicholls saddles Tingle Creek winner Dodging Bullets, while Willie Mullins sends Twinlight following his victory in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Tony McCoy partners the Mick Channon-trained Somersby, winner of this race in 2012 when handled by Henrietta Knight.
Richard Lee’s outsider Grey Gold completes the field.
The only horse not declared from the confirmation stage was Sprinter Sacre’s stable companion French Opera.
HEY Big Spender heads a field of 13 declared for the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock on Saturday.
Colin Tizzard’s 12-year-old, a three-times winner of Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase, will bid to give the Dorset trainer compensation for the narrow defeat of Theatrical Star in the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick last weekend.
Broadway Buffalo, winner of the Tommy Whittle Chase at the Merseyside venue last month, is one of two runners trained by David Pipe, who sent out Our Vic to score in 2010. The Nicholashayne handler also saddles Amigo, who was eighth in the Coral Welsh Grand National on his latest start.
Venetia Williams has won this race twice with General Wolfe (1999) and The Outlier (2007). The Herefordshire trainer is represented by Shangani.
Sue Smith is double-handed with last year’s runner-up Vintage Star and course winner No Planning as she attempts to get on the roll of honour for a third time after the Last Fling (2000) and Artic Jack (2004).
Donald McCain lifted this limited handicap chase with Cloudy Lane in 2009 and relies on Corrin Wood this time.
County Antrim trainer Stuart Crawford’s Man With Van is the sole runner from across the Irish Sea, although he is also declared at Musselburgh on Friday.
Green Flag, Samstown, Benbens, Toby Lerone and Wicklow Lad complete the field.