Sprinter Sacre second at Ascot to Dodging Bullets

Dodging Bullets beats Sprinter Sacre
Dodging Bullets and Sprinter Sacre finished clear of the five-runner field

Former champion chaser Sprinter Sacre was second to winner Dodging Bullets in the runner-up's comeback race at Ascot.

The Nicky Henderson-trained Sprinter Sacre, racing after 386 days off, ran well in the Clarence House Chase under a careful ride from Barry Geraghty.

He remained in touch but Dodging Bullets, ridden by Noel Fehily for Paul Nicholls, went clear for a three-length triumph from the 4-6 favourite.

A veterinary test later found Sprinter Sacre had a minor bleed from the nose.

But Henderson indicated that this was unlikely to have affected the horse's performance.

Earlier at Haydock, Champion Hurdle second favourite The New One won despite jumping to the right and a mistake three out in the heavy ground.

The New One, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies for father Nigel, wins the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock
The New One, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies for father Nigel, wins Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock

The 7-2 Ascot winner Dodging Bullets was following up victory in last month's Tingle Creek Chase.

Sprinter Sacre, rated one of the best steeplechasers of recent years, had been sidelined after being diagnosed with a heart condition in December 2013.

After the Ascot race, Henderson said his stable star was on track for an attempt to regain his Queen Mother Champion Chase title at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

"There was no messing about. They went a good gallop and it just found him out in the end," said Henderson.

"I loved the way he travelled and I'm pleased we decided to run. Only one day matters and he'll come on plenty for it."

Geraghty was heartened by his mount's run in soft ground.

"He ran a great race. Obviously we'd have loved him to have won but he just got tired," said the Irish jockey.

"He looked brilliant, he felt great. He was a winner for me everywhere until we straightened up when he started to tread water, which he was entitled to after a year off."

Bookmakers reacted by easing Sprinter Sacre to about 5-2 favourite, from 7-4, for the Champion Chase, ahead of last year's winner Sire De Grugy (4-1) and Dodging Bullets, cut from 12-1.

Nicholls is on holiday but Dodging Bullets owner Martin Broughton said: "We knew if there was a day to take Sprinter Sacre on, it was today.

"He keeps on improving and Paul has trained him very well."

Analysis: BBC correspondent Cornelius Lysaght
"This was a promising return by Sprinter Sacre who jumped accurately throughout but without, perhaps, some of the pizzazz for which he was previously associated. "If this was any old horse, the verdict would have been unanimously positive, but he isn't, so sceptics are questioning whether it was good enough to indicate a return to the top is likely."The Henderson team remains upbeat, and could be right to be so, but if they do pull it off it will be one of their greatest achievements."