One of racing’s greatest legends Sprinter Sacre has sadly been forced to retire due to a leg injury, Nicky Henderson announced. The 10 year old cemented his place as the greatest two mile chaser we have ever seen after coming back from a career threatening problem in 2013 to land his second Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in 2016. Nicky and his amazing staff somehow got him back racing after he suffered from a fibrillating heart. A press conference was called for Noon on Sunday the 13th of November at Seven Barrows and that was when Nicky made the sad news official.
Nicky Henderson said: “It is with deep regret that I have to announce the sad news that Sprinter Sacre has been retired. He was the horse of an absolute lifetime. We’re going to miss him. It has been a great journey and he’s been a big part of our lives. It’s been a pretty emotional time over the past five or six years and we’ve loved every moment of it, but all good things have to come to an end.”
Sprinter Sacre was paraded at Cheltenham one last time on Sunday for the Shloer Chase, a race he won last season. He amassed an amazing £1,136,000 in prize money winning 18 of his 24 starts. If the day couldn’t get any worse for the Henderson stable, we were wrong. Tragedy struck moments after Sprinter Sacre’s final parade when 2013 Arkle winner Simonsig broke his leg jumping a fence in the Shloer Chase. Everyone waited patiently for some good news but sadly it was not forthcoming; Simonsig was put to sleep on veterinary advice. We at myracing.com would like to offer our sincere condolences to Nicky, the backroom team, the handler and owner Ronnie Bartlett who gave us some special and very memorable days.
Sprinter Sacre was foaled in April 2006, sired by the German bred Network and his dam was Fatima III, a French bred mare. Only two horses’ in the modern era have accomplished a rating higher than the Nicky Henderson superstar who received a steeplechase rating of 192. Those two horses’ were the mighty Arkle (212) and Flyingbolt (210). He was imported to the UK from France and he had his first ever start in a quality Ascot bumper where he was sent off an extremely well backed 8/11 favourite. He beat the Paul Nicholls’ trained King Of The Night by a nose that day and we certainly weren’t to know what would be soon to come.
He finished 3rd behind Al Ferof and Spirit Son in the 2011 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, travelling extremely powerfully throughout but he just got caught for toe in the closing stages. It was quite clear that this massive handsome equine beast was going to turn into a much better chaser. On his first chase start at Doncaster nine months later, he lit up our world’s when winning a novice event by 24 lengths. He hacked up at Kempton and Newbury and was then sent off the 8/11 favourite for the Arkle, a race he went on to win comfortably with Cue Card, Menorah and Al Ferof miles behind. A star was born.
He racked up 10 wins on the trot and went on to beat Sizing Europe, a fine champion in his own right, by 19 lengths in the Queen Mother Champion Chase 2013. After going on to beat the same rival at Punchestown, he returned to action at Kempton for the 2013/14 season and was sadly pulled up, going off the 2/9 favourite. Something was not right with the Champion chaser and he was found to have a fibrillating heart. After over a year off the track, he returned to action at Sandown in January 2015 but could only muster up 2nd to Dodging Bullets. He ran in the 2015 Champion Chase and was again pulled up. It was looking like we would never see “The Black Aeroplane” run to his true potential again. Again, how wrong we were to doubt the amazing credentials of Nicky Henderson.
In November 2015, Sprinter Sacre set our screens alight, jumping impeccably, travelling like the aeroplane we knew he was to win the Shloer Chase by 14 lengths. Even after this win, many doubted whether he could put up back to back performances but he battled well to beat Sire De Grugy by 0.75 lengths in the Desert Orchid Chase at Sandown in December. It was far from impressive and heading into the Queen Mother Champion Chase 2016, the bookmakers’ were happy to lay pretty large prices on Sprinter. He went off the 5/1 second favourite and not many gave him much chance against what had been up to that point the breath-taking Un De Sceaux. Nico De Boinville soared past Ruby Walsh with half a mile to go and powered clear to win his second Queen Mother, a performance that has to go down as one of the best training performance’s of all time. He topped the season off by beating Un De Sceaux by 15 lengths in the Celebration Chase at Sandown. Many a tear was shed.
The memories this horse has given us will be ever-lasting. It’s only decades from now that we will realise how lucky we were to be in the presence of such a wonderful animal. He will be sorely missed by all but the correct decision has been made. He owes us nothing, in fact we owe him a huge amount of gratitude. What he did for horse racing, the national hunt scene and for racing fans will never be forgotten. He is etched into the history of Prestbury Park and will always remain there. Enjoy the grass boy, you deserve it.