Be thankful for Sprinter Sacre

A WORD about Sprinter Sacre…. Racing needs its superstars. They don’t come along too often but there was a glorious period in 2012 when both Frankel and Sprinter Sacre were at the top of their game. Two equine superstars in their pomp at the same time. We were truly blessed and racing even gatecrashed the news and features pages of the national press. While Frankel has been sowing his wild oats at stud, Sprinter Sacre has been battling a fibrillating heart problem, which surfaced after he was pulled up in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton at the end of 2013. Tomorrow he makes his eagerly-awaited reappearance at Ascot after 13 months of tests and a mountain of TLC from the Nicky Henderson team.

Sprinter Sacre’s victory in the 2012 Arkle Chase was sublime and he turned the Queen Mother Champion Chase of 2013 into a procession. Quite brilliant. But then he got even better. In the Melling Chase at Aintree, arguably his greatest performance, he battered Cue Card and Flemenstar over the longer trip of 2m 4f. Easy. By then we were probably getting spoiled by his brilliance, so when he was pulled up with his heart problem the racing world held its breath… and then some began to sneer.

It’s something I’ve found distasteful but predictable, especially in the social media cesspit where punters and pundits, particularly the latter, post ignorant nonsense without stopping to think. Henderson has been pilloried for not running the horse before now and instead opting for a racecourse gallop. Anybody who criticised him for this should hang their heads in shame. Yup, I’m no big fan of racecourse gallops and would always prefer to see good horses race each other properly.

But, hang on. Here’s two points: 1 Sprinter Sacre is no ordinary horse. He is racing’s only equine superstar at present and possibly the best two-miler we have ever seen. He deserves special treatment and the racecourse gallop was aimed at mimicking a raceday atmosphere and was part of the overall series of tests on his wellbeing.

2. He had a heart problem. This is no minor issue. People forget that.

Tomorrow at Ascot anybody who loves horses will be simply hoping that Sprinter Sacre returns to the unsaddling enclosure in one piece. If he wins, then great. If he wins in the manner of old, then marvellous. But let’s just be thankful that he’s back at all, with the thought that he owes us absolutely nothing.

Now that’s off my chest, there is also a quality card at Haydock tomorrow, weather permitting. If it goes ahead then the horses may need equine waders judging by the amount of rain we’ve had in the North West.

The dearth of class among the opposition should ensure The New One prevails despite the heavy ground. I’m also looking forward to seeing Carraig Mor over fences in the Graduation Chase. The trip is shorter than he’d like but the bad ground should still make it a stamina test. He had jumped beautifully until tipping up in the Feltham and I still have every faith in this horse. He could see his 2015 Cheltenham Festival odds tumble with victory tomorrow. Finally, I’d also love to see Green Flag bounce back to form in the Peter Marsh Chase.


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