National Hunt Season ready to kick into gear as stars return to training

Trainer Nicky Henderson opened his doors to the media last week and pictures of Champion two-mile chaser Sprinter Sacre show him in outstanding physical condition ahead of the new season.

The racing world and the bookies are now getting ready for the new season ahead and in National Hunt racing, the big name horses return season after season which is why people warm to it over the flat season. Sprinter Sacre himself has already been targeted for the Tingle Creek at Sandown on the first Saturday of December in the first showpiece race for the division.

The Christmas Festival at Sandown in December is always a festive affair. Sire De Grugy won the race in 2013 and 2015, but his talents look to be on the wane. Sprinter Sacre was imperious in the 2012 version of the race and it's been an amazing story that this ten-year-old, whose career hung in balance for a couple of seasons, has been nurtured back to full health and comes into the 2016-2017 NH season as the champion.

The elephant in the room is - of course - Douvan. The Willie Mullins trained six-year old enjoyed a truly magnificent novice chase season, perfect in fact, with amazing performances at the Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown Festivals. He is a young, improving and legitimately top class two-mile chaser with the world at his feet and considering he has a 4 year age advantage over Sprinter Sacre, the bookmakers are making Douvan the clear favorite to win the 2017 Queen Mother Champion Chase. However, Sprinter Sacre is unquestionably one of the greatest steeplechasers of all time, so he won't go down easy that much is for sure.

Willie Mullins also has three big names you should look out for the in remaining three Championship races for the Cheltenham Festival. First up is Faugheen "the machine", who looks to build his way back toward the Champion Hurdle, a race he will surely go close in. Secondly is Annie Power, the 2016 Champion Hurdler who could well be re-routed to the World Hurdle. Last but not least is the brilliant Vautour, who will surely this year be targeted and trained with the Cheltenham Gold Cup in mind.
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