The initial declarations for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival have been made and even at this stage it is shaping up to be a classic. Hot favourite Sprinter Sacre heads a list of seventeen names for the race following the announcement and he certainly looks the one to beat on all known form. The Nicky Henderson horse scooted round to win the Arkle in brilliant fashion last year and the Champion Chase is the natural progression for such a talented horse. He simply blew the field away on his first start this season in the Tingle Creek at Sandown and at this stage he is an odds favourite for the highlight on day two of the Festival this season. At this stage there are 16 horses in line to take Sprinter Sacre on including the likes of 2011 Champion Chaser, Sizing Europe, who remains a threat despite connections suggesting he could go for the Ryanair or even the Gold Cup this season. It has to be said that at eleven it is hard to see Sizing Europe beating Sprinter Sacre but punters can be sure that if he does take him on he will run his race and he has to be right in the mix for a place.
Punters looking for realistic options to take Sprinter Sacre on in the Champion Chase will be left with a very tough task indeed. However one we shouldn't forget is of course Finains Rainbow who won the Queen Mother Champion Chase last season and is another Nicky Henderson trained in-mate. He won the race last year ahead of Sizing Europe and although he was well beaten at Ascot first time out this season he clearly enjoys Cheltenham and should run well once again. It is hard to see any real dangers to Sprinter Sacre when you have a scan down the list of potential runners with perhaps the most interesting name being that of Flemenstar. The Irish raider is massively talented and highly progressive but connections have been left scratching their heads as to which Cheltenham race would suit him best. The Gold Cup had been the aim but he tired in the recent Lexus Chase over three miles to open up the Ryanair as a possibility while plenty believe that he has enough speed to take on Sprinter Sacre over two miles. At this stage though it looks to be a penalty kick for Sprinter Sacre with most believing that if he gets round he should have no problem continuing his unbeaten run over the fences.