Steeplechase: Dodging Bullets wins Cheltenham feature


CHELTENHAM, England (AP) - Dodging Bullets held on for victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday as popular former winner Sprinter Sacre pulled up in the marquee race on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Sprinter Sacre was the top horse in Britain in 2013, when he won the Champion Chase by 19 lengths, but has not been the same since suffering a heart problem last year.

He couldn't live with the pace as Dodging Bullets, a 9-2 shot, held off Somersby and Special Tiara to win one of the signature races of the festival. It was one of three wins on Wednesday for trainer Paul Nicholls, who also had victories in The Coral Cup with Aux Ptits Soins and in the Handicap Hurdle with 25-1 chance Qualando.

Dodging Bullets was bred by jockey Frankie Dettori.

While Sprinter Sacre was pulled up before the last fence, Sire de Grugy, last year's winner and joint-favorite at 5-2, tailed off to finish fourth.

Somersby (33-1) was second, a length and a half back, and long-time leader Special Tiara (18-1) placed third.

Sprinter Sacre's trainer, Nicky Henderson, said the horse will be given a thorough check-up before any thoughts of retirement are considered.

"His heart is OK, which is the main thing," Henderson said. "[Jockey] Barry [Geraghty] said he was a bit noisy going up the back and it sounds like it's something internal.

"I don't think we can make any predictions today as to the future."

Earlier, trainer Willie Mullins added to his four victories on the opening day of the festival when his horse, Don Poli, won the RSA Chase as the 13-8 favorite. It equaled Mullins' record number of wins at a single Cheltenham Festival.

In the Handicap Chase, a photographer was knocked over when two horses careered left and crashed through the running rail after jumping a fence.

Photographer Patrick McCann went to hospital with a suspected broken ankle after the race, which was won by Rivage d'Or (16-1).

Champion jockey Tony McCoy went a second day without a winner in his final appearance at Cheltenham before retiring.