Henderson upbeat after Sprinter Sacre takes first steps on comeback trail
Nicky Henderson regards Sprinter Sacre's on-site heart examination in Lambourn yesterday as a positive first step to his champion chaser making a racing comeback. But the question remains whether that return will be in time for the Queen Mother Champion Chase on March 12.
"These were the initial stages," Henderson said. "Our plan is to bring him back to routine exercise quietly over the next two to three weeks. His irregular heartbeat could be just a one off. When he steps up to faster work, then we will find out."
Sprinter Sacre lost his unbeaten record over fences when he was pulled up dramatically by jockey Barry Geraghty at the seventh fence in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park on December 27.
When examined by a vet at the course he was found to have a fibrillating heart. That problem corrected itself the following day in Newmarket, where he was under the care of Celia Marr, an equine cardiologist.
Yesterday, on the gallops at Henderson's Seven Barrows yard, Sprinter Sacre's heart was monitored by Marr on an ECG machine. "It was pretty gentle exercise," said Henderson. "He went a routine six-furlong canter with the heart monitor on. He had shown a normal reading in the stable beforehand, and it was the same when he returned. It never moved."
Sprinter Sacre had gone to Kempton a very fit horse eight days ago, despite it being his first outing of the season.
He looked in magnificent condition and had clearly done plenty of work. With this in mind, Henderson should still have a decent chance of getting him to the Festival.
"Our objective is to get him ready for the Queen Mother, or not," he said. "I haven't spoken to owners Caroline and Raymond Mould yet, but if we can't get him to Cheltenham, then he could miss the season. Nico (de Boinville, his regular work rider) said Sprinter Sacre feels great. But there will be more pressure on the horse as he goes faster in his work."