DEFEAT is said to be out of the question as Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Sire De Grugy makes his eagerly-awaited comeback in the Betfair Price Rush Chase at Newbury today.
Expectations are high for Gary Moore’s stable star as he returns to action in the Grade Two contest, registered as the Game Spirit Chase, after recovering from a setback that has kept him off the course since April.
While Moore anticipates Sire De Grugy will benefit from the run, he clearly will be disappointed if he is beaten as it would dampen hopes of retaining his two-mile title at Cheltenham next month.
However, it would be remiss of Moore, and his son Jamie who rides Sire De Grugy, to take victory for granted – expectations were similarly high ahead of 2013 Champion Chase winner Sprinter Sacre’s comeback in last month’s Clarence House Chase at Ascot. He was only second.
“Everything’s good. I’ve got no problems, no worries,” said West Sussex-based Moore. “I hope he wins. If he doesn’t win he shouldn’t be going to Cheltenham.”
Sire De Grugy’s four opponents include Upsilon Bleu, who won Wetherby’s Castleford Chase under Saltburn jockey James Reveley on December 27.
However, trainer Pauline Robson is under no illusions about the task facing Upsilon Bleu as she sends the seven-year-old down to Newbury from her Northumberland stables.
“Obviously it’s a very good race. We have nowhere else to go but to travel now as he’s rated 150,” said Robson. “We’ve got the horse in good form and that’s why we’re travelling down the country. A sound run from him would be great, he’s an absolute treasure to train so it’s fingers crossed.”
Two of Britain’s top three-mile novice chasers also put their Cheltenham credentials on the line on the Newbury under-card.
Coneygree takes on seasoned chasers, like former 2013 Charlie Hall Chase hero Harry Topper, in the Betfair Denman Chase while Kings Palace – trained by David Pipe and the mount of Tom Scudamore – has just two opponents in the novice chase.
Both are among the market leaders for the RSA Chase at the National Hunt Festival.
Rotherham jockey Joseph Palmowski will never forget his fifth career winner – the Northern Racing College graduate’s success at Kempton yesterday aboard Under The Phone came against 19-times champion jockey AP McCoy.
Palmowski, now attached to Robin Dickin’s Worcestershire yard, led over the final flight and had enough in hand to deter McCoy on favourite Last Shadow. The pair had pulled nearly 19 lengths clear of the third horse.
The rider began his career with Ferdy Murphy – he led Poker De Sivola into the winner’s enclosure at the 2010 National Hunt Festival – before switching to the Dickin yard two years ago. He was second at Cheltenham last year aboard Thomas Crapper in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
The victory means Palmowski can no longer utilise his 10lb claim. It was also the 400th success of Dickin’s career, but it was slightly bittersweet – his stable star Restless Harry, a former winner of Wetherby’s West Yorkshire Hurdle, is out for the season.
“AP didn’t say much after the race, but he came over to me in the weighing room and said ‘well done’ and ‘great ride’. That was the icing on the cake. He’s a gentleman,” said Palmowksi.