The Big Question – Can Sprinter Sacre regain his crown?
If you had suggested straight after Sprinter Sacre’s nineteen length romp in the 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase that the next time he returned to Prestbury Park he would be above even money, the men in white coats would have been called in for such a preposterous statement.
After his Champion Chase success, he went to Aintree in the Melling Chase and proved himself to be just as effective over 2m4f when beating his old rival and 2013 Ryanair Chase winner Cue Card by seven lengths. The decision was then made to send him to Punchestown where he was sent off 1/9 favourite but unlike his superior victories at Cheltenham and Aintree, he was taken out of his comfort zone by Sizing Europe and didn’t win in the manner as the market suggested.
Fast forward to March 2015 and the once invincible force now looks vulnerable.
From the beginning of last season, the vibes surrounding the horse weren’t positive. He missed his intended first outing in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham before missing his first big target, the Tingle Creek at Sandown. His next arranged target was the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton which he made but what happened on that day took the racing world by shock as he was sharply pulled up by Barry Geraghty mid-race with an irregular heart.
Since then, his problems have been documented by trainer Nicky Henderson who kept the media and public updated on the horse’s well-being. Even at the start of this season, the reports weren’t particularly strong and again, he missed the Tingle Creek. At Christmas time, he finally returned to the track in a schooling session at Newbury where he jumped five fences and had a good blow out. The plan was to head for the Clarence House Chase at Ascot as Henderson was keen to get a prep run into the horse.
The money came for him beforehand and he was settled in fourth position by Barry Geraghty. He travelled well enough through the race, showing signs of the old Sprinter, most notably at the fourth last when Geraghty asked him to pick up. However, when push came to shove in the straight, Geraghty wasn’t hard on the horse and once Dodging Bullets kicked on past him, he was looked after with an eye towards the future.
Post-race, the questions began to stack up about the horse.
Would Sprinter Sacre return to the horse he once was?