Sprinter races to record mark
Sprinter Sacre is officially the best novice chaser of this millennium following a "bizarre" and "extraordinary" year in his two-mile division.
The six-year-old Arkle Chase winner also went on to triumph at Aintree, having already trounced his elders in Newbury's Game Spirit Chase.
He was therefore today allotted an unprecedented rating of 169, just 4lb behind Champion Chase winner Finian's Rainbow and three behind former champion Sizing Europe.
Announcing his findings at the Anglo-Irish Jumps Classifications in London, British Horseracing Authority handicapper John de Moraville noted Sprinter Sacre is deposing then two-miler Tidal Bay and ill-fated three-miler Gloria Victis - back in 1999/2000 - as the highest-ranked novice since the ratings were introduced in their current form.
De Moraville also pointed out that, remarkably, Nicky Henderson's 'black aeroplane' has only 3lb in hand this year on his nearest pursuer - Celebration Chase winner Sanctuaire, who in any other season would have been an undisputed champion novice.
"Sprinter Sacre was the highest-rated novice we have ever had, before he even got to Cheltenham," he said.
"Personally, I cannot recall a winner of the Arkle being eased before he got to the second-last fence."
Of Paul Nicholls' occasionally wayward Sanctuaire, De Moraville concedes some may disagree with his prominent position in the classifications.
But he added of the Sandown form: "There is no reason to doubt that (third-placed) Dan Breen ran his race.
"Bizarrely, after this extraordinary year, he is Gloria Victis' equal - but another horse is three pounds higher."
Among the staying novice chasers, meanwhile, Henderson's RSA Chase winner Bobs Worth is unsurprisingly the top-rated British horse - on 160.
But the strength in depth appears to lie with Irish pair Flemenstar and Sir des Champs, both rated in the two-and-a-half-mile category.
Peter Casey's Flemenstar is on 163, with Willie Mullins' Sir des Champs - already next year's Gold Cup favourite in some bookmakers' lists - just behind on 162.
Back in championship company, former two-mile champion Master Minded - who suffered a likely career-ending injury when tried over three in the King George VI Chase - is, for the second year running, the best two-and-a-half-miler on 174 ahead of Ryanair Chase winner Riverside Theatre.