Wednesday 21 February 2018

Sprinter Sacre in a league of his own

Henderson told how a minor leg injury had compelled connections to retire Sprinter Sacre, one of the best two-mile chasers of all time. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Henderson told how a minor leg injury had compelled connections to retire Sprinter Sacre, one of the best two-mile chasers of all time. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Johnny Ward

It was a day trainer Nicky Henderson will recall with no fondness, his most talented horse retired and one who promised that he might be as good put down.

Emotion getting the better of him at a snap press conference at Cheltenham, Henderson told how a minor leg injury had compelled connections to retire Sprinter Sacre, one of the best two-mile chasers of all time.

Worse was to come. Simonsig, the 2013 Arkle winner which failed to win since after desperate injury issues, came to grief in the Shloer Chase.

For so long, it looked as though physical complications would see Sprinter Sacre's career end prematurely. After he was pulled up in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton in December 2013, it transpired he had an irregular heartbeat.

Many were adamant that Sprinter Sacre should be retired. He looked unlikely to ever reach the heights of his Champion Chase win that year, yet Henderson persisted and the French-bred reclaimed the race last March.

Sprinter Sacre won 18 races and £1,136,000 in prize-money. He put racing in the headlines for the right reasons.

Henderson said: "He's been a great part of our lives and what happened last (season) was something that will never be repeated in my lifetime. In terms of emotion it took us all to the brink.

"You wouldn't know which leg it was but there's a little bit of heat in his near-fore that has shown up on the scan. This is the right thing to do.

"For a long time I protected See You Then and said he was our best horse but during Sprinter Sacre's best two years he was unbeatable."

There is some debate as to which was better - Moscow Flyer, which died recently, or Sprinter Sacre - but they were quite different horses.

'Moscow' was a little quirky, rarely won by huge margins and his jumping technique was a bit enigmatic, whereas Sprinter Sacre was a natural of naturals. Tony McCoy, who rode him on one occasion, likened him to a Ferrari.

Beauty

His beauty endeared him to racegoers and the reception he received in regaining the Queen Mother at ten years of age reminded everyone how the sport can play with our hearts.

Henderson's tweet with the initial announcement yesterday had nearly 2,000 retweets last evening - a pretty staggering figure for something racing-related.

And there is no doubt he played his part in introducing newcomers to the joy of watching steeplechasing. He had it all. He gave his all.

However, at least, unlike Simonsig, he can enjoy a pampered retirement.

Indo Sport

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport