Racing: Simply Ned tipped to win Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham

Simply Ned. Photo: John Giles/PA Wire
Simply Ned. Photo: John Giles/PA Wire

There is no room for sentiment in racing.

And while it would be great to see Sprinter Sacre regain his Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase crown, or even last year’s winner Sire De Grugy win again, it is time to welcome in the new guard led by Simply Ned.

It would go down as one of the greatest training feats of all time if Nicky Henderson can nurse Sprinter Sacre back to anything resembling the form he was in two years ago.

In a five-week spell he won this race by 19 lengths, beating former winner Sizing Europe, stepped up to two and a half miles at Aintree to account for the Ryanair winner Cue Card and the great Irish hope Flemenstar and then went on to Punchestown to beat Sizing Europe again.

There have been countless issues since - heart trouble, rumours of breathing operations and the fact he bled after his comeback on that eagerly-awaited day at Ascot in January - and while there were flashes of his old self on his comeback, he folded rather tamely.

Sprinter Sacre could probably run a stone below his very best and still win, but at his unbelievable peak he would have beaten Dodging Bullets when 50 per cent fit and that one beat him comprehensively at the finish in the Clarence House.

The Paul Nicholls runner has never performed at his best at this time of year and Sire De Grugy, while impressive at Chepstow after his clumsy comeback at Newbury, has had only just over two weeks to recover from two quick runs and would prefer much softer ground.

Simply Ned is still unexposed. As a novice last season he was beaten only by Balder Succes at Aintree in Grade One company.

In three runs he has steadily improved. He gave lumps of weight to inferior rivals on his comeback before heading for vital experience of Cheltenham at the Paddy Power meeting where he finished second to Uxizandre, giving him 1lb and being beaten less than two lengths, with Dodging Bullets back in third.

In Ireland he ran a cracker to finish third on ground much too soft behind Twinlight and Hidden Cyclone, turning the tables on Uxizandre.

* Other tips -

Cheltenham: 1.30 NICHOLS CANYON (NAP), 2.05 Southfield Theatre, 2.40 Blackmail, 3.20 Simply Ned, 4.00 Sire Collonges, 4.40 Hostile Fire, 5.15 Bellshill.

Huntingdon: 1.45 Bach On Tow, 2.20 Red Devil Star, 2.55 Bebinn, 3.35 Masterful Act, 4.15 Ballykan, 4.55 Jay Are, 5.30 Go Long.

Kempton: 5.50 Bold Runner, 6.20 Breakheart, 6.50 Silver Lining, 7.20 Skinny Love, 7.50 Wanting, 8.20 Polar Kite.

Southwell: 1.55 Royal Holiday, 2.30 Khajaaly, 3.05 River Of Dreams, 3.45 Special Code, 4.25 Back Burner, 5.05 Foxtrot Knight, 5.40 Hab Reeh.

Double: Nichols Canyon and Simply Ned.