Sire De Grugy – “Horse Of A Lifetime” Retires

Sprinter Sacre "The Black Aeroplane" Retires 1

And so a Fairytale comes to an end. Not every punter will have backed Sire De Grugy, and quite a few will have fallen foul of his seventeen career wins, four over hurdles and thirteen over fences and at odds ranging from as short as 2/9 up to 8/1 for his final victory at Ascot in November 2016.

A son of My Risk out of Hirlish (by Passing Sale), his breeding failed to ever suggest he could reach the dizzy heights he managed over the years, not that he would capture the public’s imagination, though that was certainly as much to do with his enthusiastic owners as his undoubted abilities on the racecourse.

Born on the 21st of June 2006, he was bought as part of a 50th birthday present for businessman Steve Preston who was given £2000 by friends and family toward buying a racehorse, which he topped up considerably before asking numerous trainers if they could find him a horse at the sales with the proviso that they kept a share themselves, presumably as a safety measure and a way to garner the enthusiasm of his or her handler for the new purchase. Perhaps embarrassingly for some, Sussex trainer Gary Moore was the only one willing to grasp the nettle, and effectively put his own money where his mouth is. €50,000 was spent in France on the half-brother to seven-time winner Magot De Grugy, and the rest, as they say, is history.

First time out as a four-year-old he was sent off to Sandown, one of Gary’s favourite tracks for the first of three unsuccessful bumper runs where he finished a good second at odds of 6/1 and after a further second and then a fourth at Kempton. The decision was then taken that it was time to try his luck over hurdles in January 2011 at Fakenham over two miles, where he won very easily by nineteen lengths at odds of 4/9, despite far too many jumping errors. Who would have marked him down that afternoon as a future Champion Chaser?

Three more wins over hurdles from eight starts followed, the peak in the Grade Two Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle, but at this stage of his career it seems fair to say he was yet to attract the betting public’s full attention nor give too many signs of the superstar he was set to become. His owner(s) did attract a fair bit of media coverage thanks to their unbridled enthusiasm and Crystal Palace scarves but as we now know, the best was very much yet to come, while Gary told us that he failed to get home when fourth to Zarkandar in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, but that he knew even then that he would get stronger over time and so it proved.

On the 21st of October 2012, less than two years after his racecourse debut, Sire De Grugy stepped out on to the track at Kempton for his first try over fences in a two-mile Beginners Chase when he was sent off a 5/6 chance after sustained market support before winning eased down by six lengths despite some fairly noticeable errors. The win came as no shock to the Moore family with Gary telling us this afternoon that “We always knew he was out of the top drawer. Jamie (Moore) was involved in buying him and after riding him in France he told me to go out and get him, he was that good. When we schooled him over fences at home he was dynamite – he was always quick and accurate at his fences and we knew we had a good one on our hands.”

Four more races in novice class saw two more victories but he really came to the fore at Sandown when put in to the Celebration Chase in April 2013 when he beat the high-class Finian’s Rainbow (Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty) by a length and three-quarters with some decent sorts in behind. The scenes in the Winners Circle will no doubt have been frowned upon by racings rulers but there is nothing more contagious than a smile, and to witness so much deep-rooted joy from a large group of owners was a memory to savour and perhaps the day he truly became the people’s horse regardless of his official ownership.

More wins followed with the Tingle Creek back at Sandown in December 2013,  the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton in December 2013, and the Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January 2014, but it was the Cheltenham Festival that year that undoubtedly saw his finest hour. There has never been an easy Queen Mother Champion Chase, the season highlight for the two miles chasers and a top-quality contest even after the withdrawal of Sprinter Sacre, seen by most as the best of his era. That was hardly Sire De Grugy’s fault as he beat   a field that included Special Tiara (the winner in 2017), multiple Grade One winner Sizing Europe, and his closest pursuer Somersby (who was also second the following year) by six lengths, yet he never really got the recognition he deserved thanks to the absence of Sprinter Sacre which was and still is a massive shame.

In all honesty, that was quite clearly his finest hour, with fragile feet making him ever more difficult to train and although he did add four more victories including the Celebration Chase and another Tingle Creek in December 2015, it always looked a struggle to bring him back to his peak, but we can remember him at his very best – a talented chaser who liked a scrap and who deserves so much more recognition than he got at the time for his relatively small Sussex yard and his amazingly enthusiastic followers.

Naturally, Sire De Grugy is irreplaceable, on the track, at the stable, and in punters hearts, but Gary has Ar Mad as the nearest thing to a long-term replacement – if ever a yard deserved another stable star the likeable and hard-working Moore family are the ones, so fingers crossed for a successful and profitable future.

By Sean Trivass, with thanks to Gary Moore for his assistance.

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