Sprinter career on line after heart scare
When Sprinter Sacre was dramatically pulled up mid-race by jockey Barry Geraghty in yesterday's Desert Orchid Chase, to many it signalled the end. But this may not be the case.
It emerged last night that trainer Nicky Henderson and owner Raymond Mould are clinging to hopes that the early prognosis of an irregular heartbeat may still point the way to a full recovery.
"It is our job to find out what has happened," said Henderson, standing on the edge of the Kempton all-weather track, where he had rushed to the side of his great champion. "He flew the fifth (fence) but Barry said that at the seventh he just had no horse."
The engine had cut out. Reasons why such an affliction should bring a magnificently fit physical specimen to a juddering halt before a whip had even been lifted are not going to be easy to find. There was no warning, as Geraghty so eloquently reported.
"Everything you do on Sprinter Sacre is, 'whoa, whoa, whoa,' and all of a sudden, there was no 'whoa'. Something was amiss and I wasn't going to hang around to find out what it was. I pulled him up. Hopefully, it's only a temporary thing."
Sprinter Sacre has an appointment with Celia Marr, a specialist in internal equine medicine and cardiology at Rossdales in Newmarket, today. Henderson continued: "What I'm hearing from all the vets is that you deal with these things sooner rather than later."
The irregular heartbeat was detected by the vet who had first examined the horse after the race and Sprinter Sacre was still suffering from that condition in the unsaddling area. Even late yesterday, Henderson reported that an irregularity was still detectable.
Mould, who owns Sprinter Sacre with his wife Caroline, added: "I believe Denman had something similar and he was able to come back and win a second Hennessy. We certainly hope it is not the end."
Before the race Henderson said that he was dreading yesterday's comeback but that was because of fears of very soft, testing ground. Nobody could have envisaged such an anticlimax. The 8,000 crowd were deflated in an instant.
Because of concern for Sprinter Sacre, many will not have appreciated Sire De Grugy's fine winning performance. He was getting tired but had been in front from a long way out. Rider Jamie Moore kept pushing all the way to the line aboard the seven-year-old, which beat Oiseau De Nuit by four lengths, with 26 lengths back to Astracad in third.
It was a triumph for trainer Gary Moore, who was quick to point out that his son had been unable to ride the race he had intended. "Jamie didn't want to be in front that early, but knew something had gone wrong. I'm hoping our horse has not had too hard a race as we want to go for the Clarence House Chase at Ascot (January 18). You haven't seen the best of him today. It was a messy race," said Moore.
Paul Nicholls, meanwhile, now has two solid challengers to aim towards this season's Arkle Trophy after Dodging Bullets joined Hinterland in the Cheltenham equation with a powerful showing in the two-mile novice chase.
"I've got two really nice novices, and this horse is every bit as good as Hinterland," Nicholls said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)