LAMBOURN trainer Nicky Henderson’s Sprinter Sacre could be set for a pre-Cheltenham Festival meeting of sorts as both he and Long Run are pencilled in to work at Kempton on February 22.
Henderson has highlighted a spin at the Sunbury track, either on the all-weather or turf course, as a crucial part of Sprinter Sacre’s Festival build-up following his heart scare over Christmas.
Sire De Grugy was the main beneficiary when Sprinter Sacre was pulled up in the Desert Orchid Chase in December, going on to win by four lengths before subsequently storming to victory in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot last month.
Trainer Gary Moore reports his charge in good form as he freshens him up for a crack at the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase and admits Kempton could prove a nice stepping stone on the way to Cheltenham.
He said: “Kempton have very kindly offered us the opportunity to work at the track and it might be the best option with the way the ground is.
“It’s on February 22, though, and with the way the forecast is, you just never know.
“It’s so far, so good with the horse. A lot can happen between now and next month, but at the moment I’m very happy with the horse.”
Sprinter Sacre’s stablemate Long Run is to travel north of the border for the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase later this week as connections head to Kelso in search of better ground.
The Kempton Park Chase, formerly known as the Racing Plus Chase, on February 22 had been earmaked as a target for the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, who was last seen when unseating his rider in the King George on Boxing Day.
However, the promise of better ground, combined with a less competitive race, has proved an irresistible lure for owner Robert Waley-Cohen and trainer Henderson.
“It's a Class Two race, not a Class One, and it’s just a case of going where the ground is best,” said Waley-Cohen.
“Kelso is good to soft and Kempton raced last Friday on heavy ground.
“It will be nice for him to have a race that's not one of the toughest of the season.
“The horse is fine. We just don't really want to go on very heavy ground. The Denman Chase at Newbury last weekend was an option, but there was no way we would run on that ground.
“The forecast is for torrential rain again later this week and the ground is good to soft at Kelso, so it makes sense to take the opportunity.”
Long Run has not tasted victory since landing the 2012 King George and his three runs this seasons have all yielded unplaced finishes - the first occasions in the gelding’s career when he has not made the frame.
Should he bounce back to winning form, Long Run is entered once again for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup as well as the Crabbie’s Grand National.
“We'll see how it goes, but Aintree is definitely an option,” said Waley-Cohen.