Nicholls has 2m Champion Chase rival for Sprinter Sacre
Sprinter Sacre’s dominance of the novice chase division last season will leave many expecting a repeat in the senior ranks, but Paul Nicholls believes that Sanctuaire has the ability to pose a big threat.
Sanctuaire won all of his three chase starts as a novice and this was achieved by a combined winning margin of 74 lengths.
Granted, the first two of these were against feeble opposition, but Sanctuaire’s success in the Celebration Chase at Sandown did come against the likes of Somersby and Wishfull Thinking.
This performance alone, where he triumphed by 17 lengths without being all out, makes 6/1 look a decent each-way price at worst for the Champion Chase at this season’s Cheltenham Festival.
Sprinter Sacre is the ante-post favourite at 1/1 and brushed aside all in his path in the novice ranks, which culminated in a wide-margin victory in the Arkle at Cheltenham and then the Maghull Novices’ Chase at the Grand National meeting.
He is very tough to oppose at this stage of the season, but comments from Nicholls suggest that there is alternative for punters willing to take on the favourite.
Sanctuaire is the highest-rated novice chaser that Nicholls has trained in 21 years and could even be on a par with greats from the yard including Master Minded and Azertyuiop.
He has been putting some graded 2m horses in their place in his work at home and Sanctuaire’s enigmatic character could result in him having just one run prior to Cheltenham.
This is expected to be in the Tingle Creek and a dominant victory here would almost certainly see his price shorten for the Champion Chase.
At present, Finian’s Rainbow is 3/1 to defend his Champion Chase crown, with marginal runner-up Sizing Europe available at 4/1.
All odds and markets correct as of publication