RACING: No King George for Sprinter Sacre
11:41am Wednesday 4th September 2013 in Sport
LAMBOURN trainer Nicky Henderson insists superstar chaser Sprinter Sacre will not be entered in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
The seven-year-old remains unbeaten after 10 starts over fences, turning in a mesmerising display in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March before following up at Aintree and Punchestown.
Although he has yet to encounter three miles, King George sponsors William Hill make Sprinter Sacre the 6-4 favourite for the Festive showpiece, but Henderson warns punters to save their money.
"They can put him in the betting all they like, but it's daylight robbery if they're going to convince anyone to back him because he won't even be entered," the Seven Barrows handler said.
Henderson reports the seven-year-old as "looking absolutely fantastic", and suggests he is likely to take in an identical programme to last season, starting off with the Tingle Creek at Sandown in early December.
After watching Sprinter Sacre engage in his first canter, in which he was joined by Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth, Henderson said: "I call it a canter, but I could run faster myself."
The champion jumps trainer acknowledges it is important for the sport that Sprinter Sacre maintains his air of invincibility in the coming season.
"Good horses are good for racing, I don't think there's any doubt about that," he said.
"Nobody enjoyed Frankel or Sea The Stars more than I did. People who love racing love good horses, that's what it's all about.
"For all the great days out for Sprinter last year, the staggering one was Punchestown. It was the most extraordinary experience.
"Ireland is a great country and they love their horses there. The welcome and the reception they gave us afterwards was just unbelievable.
"They said it was one of the greatest days they had ever seen, and it was."
Henderson is hopeful Bobs Worth will have a busier campaign this time around as he builds up to a defence of his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown next March.
The seven-year-old kicked off last season with a brilliant display in the Hennessy Gold Cup in early December, but was then not seen until clinching Gold Cup glory at the Festival in the spring.
Henderson said: "It was one bad tracheal wash and some bloody awful weather.
"He probably never really reached peak fitness last season.
"We were going to run him and a lot of the other top horses much more, but the winter set us back."
The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and the Betfair Chase at Haydock are obvious early-season targets for Bobs Worth, but a tilt at the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day appears highly unlikely.
"It's (Kempton) not a good track for Bobs Worth, who loves going left-handed and loves Cheltenham," said the Seven Barrows trainer.
One of Henderson's stars who could yet come into the King George reckoning is Simonsig, who completed a hat-trick over fences in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham.
Henderson said: "He started at over two miles and three furlongs last year, and he won the Neptune (over two miles and five furlongs) the year before that.
"It all tells you he stays and I wouldn't rule him out of the King George.
"Otherwise he's going to have to go straight in and take on Sprinter Sacre, which would be quite a pity."
Dual King George winner Long Run is likely to be back at Kempton on Boxing Day, while Oscar Whisky and My Tent Or Yours are also likely to be major flag-bearers for the stable.
Henderson claimed his first trainers' title since 1987 last season and is determined not to relinquish it.
"I've still got the hunger, I want to go and win every bloody race there is and we've got a very strong team, both equine and human," he said.
"Oscar Whisky will go over fences. My Tent or Yours will have to come in as a Champion Hurdle horse, and Grandouet is one of those, too.
"There's an awful lot of good ones for those races and some good youngsters, too."
Paul Nicholls looks likely to be Henderson's main challenger again this term, while Ireland's perennial champion Willie Mullins will bring an added threat after last month declaring his intention to saddle more runners in Britain.
Henderson said: "We just want to have a good year, but I don't think Paul is going to lie down just like that.
"He'll be trying like hell and we'll also have Willie Mullins to contend with too. Imagine what he's going to bring over here. It'll make it difficult for us."
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