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CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2013: Sprinter Sacre leads the chase
10:55am Monday 11th March 2013 in Sport
LAMBOURN trainer Nicky Henderson's star Sprinter Sacre and Sizing Europe are the star names among seven declared runners in Wednesday's Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Last year's Arkle hero Sprinter Sacre remains unbeaten in seven starts over fences having barely come off the bridle in winning the Tingle Creek and Victor Chandler Chases so far this season.
Henderson's incredible seven-year-old will be long odds-on to notch another Grade One triumph on Wednesday, but the presence of former champion Sizing Europe does at least add some spice to the race.
Winner of the Arkle in 2010, the Queen Mother in 2011 and narrowly denied by Finian's Rainbow 12 months ago, Henry de Bromhead's Sizing Europe is now an 11-year-old, but has appeared as good as ever in winning each of his four starts this term.
Connections deliberated over whether to let the veteran run over the longer distance of Thursday's Ryanair Chase, but have decided to give him the chance to regain his crown.
Mail De Bievre is a fascinating contender for Tom George after he was supplemented for the race last week having run over three miles in the Aon Chase on his British debut.
The enigmatic Wishfull Thinking runs for Philip Hobbs, while the Paul Nicholls-trained Sanctuaire lines up having been put in his place by Sprinter Sacre twice already this season.
The field is completed by Mick Channon's Somersby and Tataniano, formerly trained by Nicholls but now making his debut for Richard Rowe.
Ante-post favourite My Tent Of Yours will face 11 rivals in the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday.
Henderson's six-year-old obliterated a field of top-drawer handicappers in last month's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and with Tony McCoy on board, he is going to be a warm order to claim the Festival curtain-raiser.
Leading owner JP McManus has a formidable hand, with My Tent Or Yours joined by Jessica Harrington's Irish raider Jezki, unbeaten in four starts over obstacles.
Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins saddles Un Atout, Champagne Fever and Pique Sous, ridden by Davy Russell, Ruby Walsh and Paul Townend respectively.
Walsh passed over the Paul Nicholls-trained Dodging Bullets, who will now be ridden by Daryl Jacob.
One significant absentee is Jeremy Scott's Tolworth Hurdle hero Melodic Rendezvous, who misses the race following a dirty scope.
Scott tweeted: "Melodic Rendezvous didn't scope well today so will have to miss Cheltenham. We tried our best but it's not to be."
Henderson also saddles River Maigue, Philip Hobbs runs 2011 Champion Bumper winner Cheltenian while the field is completed by Puffin Billy, Fire King, Ostentation and Cause Of Causes.
UPDATES ON LOCAL SUCCESSES AT THE CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL AT GAZETTEANDHERALD.CO.UK/SPORT FROM TOMORROW