Sprinter Sacre set alight this year’s Cheltenham Festival with a spine-tingling victory in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old stretched his unbeaten record over fences to eight races with a visually astounding display in the feature race of the day.
Barry Geraghty’s partner was sent on his way the 1-4 favourite, and easily justified those cramped odds in front of an expectant grandstand.
Sizing Europe, the winner in 2011 and runner-up last year, finished second, but was beaten out of sight by 19 lengths.
Geraghty said: “He’s a beautiful horse to ride. I’ve never ridden one as natural to jump. Things would have to go very wrong to go wrong.
“Once he’s healthy and well, you get him relaxed and into a nice rhythm.
“He does the rest and he’s a pleasure to ride.
“I’ve ridden some brilliant horses over the years, but the ease and the grace that he does it with sets him apart.”
Sprinter Sacre has over the last few seasons gained the moniker “the big, black aeroplane”, and it is easy to see why.
The Caroline Mould-owned chaser evoked memories of the two-mile greats such as Moscow Flyer with some extraordinary leaps over the Cheltenham fences.
Sprinter Sacre was providing Henderson, the winning-most trainer at the Cheltenham Festival, with back-to-back Queen Mother triumphs after Finian’s Rainbow struck in 2012.
Henderson, greeting his 49th Festival winner, said: “That was probably the worst five minutes of my life.
“Hopefully Barry had fun, but I’m glad it’s over.
“It does leave you speechless. What he looks like, and what he does at home, is one thing, but what he does out there is something totally unique.
“He just has that way of doing it. He finds it ridiculously easy - he just loves doing it.
“We’ve talked about Punchestown, and I’m sure Richie Galway (Punchestown manager) would like us to talk about it a bit more.
“He is a two-miler and I don’t think Aintree really will be him.
“There’s a nice Grade One in Ireland (Boylesports.com Champion Chase) and maybe we go for that and then wrap him up.”