Paul Nicholls talks exclusively to Betfair about his two runners in the Tingle Creek Chase today where his high class Sanctuaire will take on Nicky Henderson's Sprinter Sacre...
Doeslessthanme hasn't finished out of the front two in his last nine completed starts and is clearly a very smart 2m chaser in his own right. But there will be some surprised, and disappointed, faces if that proves to the case again today - I think we all know third is the best we can hope for him here, but I do like surprises all the same! - as the race between Sanctuaire and Sprinter Sacre has been the most eagerly-awaited of the season to date.
And I agree. Although, as we saw to some to degree in Kauto Star and Denman's 2010 Gold Cup, no race is a two horse race unless there are only two runners in it.
Everyone knows Sanctuaire has always been a highly talented, occasionally troublesome and slightly erratic character in the past - in fact, Dan named him as the most challenging horse he has ever had to deal with when he first came to us - but I suppose that's the appeal of the horse to many.
Namely, that there is a still a little bit of the unpredictable and unknown about him.
But what a revelation he proved to be over fences last season, and this race has been the plan for him ever since Ruby got off him when he won here in March. And then he went and treated Somersby, who, remember, had beaten Finian's Rainbow in the Victor Chandler just two starts earlier, with contempt in the Celebration Chase here in soft ground. Some may question the end-of-season form but whatever way you look at it, it was a stunning front-running performance and not many horses could have jumped that course better than he did that day. He was electric.
I know Timeform have a far bigger gap between him and Sprinter Sacre on their figures, but the official handicapper only has 3lb separating the pair.
Our horse is in A1 form, very fit, and I think it would be fair to say that this is the biggest test that Nicky's horse has undergone yet, both in terms of ratings and how the race could be run. And what I did also observe is that all bar one of Sprinter Sacre's six wins last season came on good ground, the other being good to soft, and I can assure you that it will be soft tomorrow.
Don't get me wrong though, you could not be failed to be mightily impressed by Sprinter Sacre last season, and his jumping around the likes of Kempton, Cheltenham and Aintree was every bit as electric and foot-perfect as Sanctuaire's around here. And if his Arkle win looked good at the time, then Cue Card's Haldon Cup victory puts the task we face today into ever sharper focus.
Of course, we can't be confident of beating him.
But what I am confident of is that Sanctuaire comes into this race very fit, and looking the best I have ever seen physically. He looks amazing. And the horses that we have sent to the track in that kind of condition this season, such as Al Ferof, have all run well.
And in some respects this is a home game for him, as he has already shown an aptitude for jumping around this track - and that has to be a big plus in our favour.
These kind of races are why myself and Nicky train racehorses, and what the public love to see.
So game on.
Don't forget to check back on the Betfair site between 12 and 1pm for today's special enhanced double!