Cheltenham Festival 2016 – 15.30pm
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
What extraordinary anticipation built up for the 2016 renewal of the Queen Mother Champion Chase. We had odds-on favourite UN DE SCEAUX heading the market, coming into the race with an unbeaten record over fences when completing with form figures reading – F1111F1. He had beaten pretty much everything in his path, but faced his biggest test to date this time against “The Black Aeroplane”, SPRINTER SACRE who developed into a top-class chaser of the modern era, winning his first 10/10 chase starts and was undoubtedly unbeatable. This included winning this very race two years ago in great style and adding plenty of other top class race victories to his glorious achievements.
However, on the 27th December 2013, disaster struck as regular jockey BARRY GERAGHTY pulled SPRINTER SACRE up sharply on his return in the Desert Orchid Chase as if something was amiss. It was found out that he was suffering from an irregular heartbeat which was dreadful news. Rveryone had in their minds the career was potentially over for this once unbeatable chaser. SPRINTER SACRE wasn’t seen again for over a year.
17th January 2015. SPRINTER SACRE made his eagerly awaited return in the Clarence House Chase. He showed some of his old sparkle and travelled the best that day but fitness took its toll towards the end against a race-fit Dodging Bullets but it was an encouraging performance. SPRINTER SACRE went back to Cheltenham to defend his Champion Chase title. He was sent off 9/4 favourite despite what the horse had been through. Even though he travelled well again, once BARRY GERAGHTY asked for his effort, the response was very limited and he virtually slowed to a walk. Sprinter Sacre was pulled up before the final fence. Very sad scenes to see this true Champion not the same horse anymore.
SPRINTER SACRE, was then beaten into 2nd in the Celebration Chase at SANDOWN. His old spark began to show next time, as he won the Shloer Chase at CHELTENHAM by 14 lengths very impressively and followed that success with another win in the Desert Orchid Chase, the race that halted his career two years ago with the heart problem. He beat off Sire De Grugy in a tenacious battle over the last fence, showing his “heart of a lion” attitude and was once in a league of his own over fences.
The Big Day
The day had arrived, the 2016 Queen Mother Champion Chase. SPRINTER SACRE was sent off 5/1 second favourite in the betting behind UN DE SCEAUX, the 4/6 favourite. Could the impossible dream happen and make one of the greatest comebacks in National Hunt racing? We find out now…..
“THEY SAY THEY NEVER COME BACK”
Ruby Walsh sent UN DE SCEAUX off in a blaze trail up front as he usually does and jockey NICO DE BOINVILLE was happy to settle SPRINTER SACRE back in 3rd for most of the journey. He, once again, was travelling well but so was UN DE SCEAUX and as they approached down hill towards the third last fence, UN DE SCEAUX led over it from SPECIAL TIARA close-up but SPRINTER SACRE made a mistake and was pushed away from the fence to get on terms.
They approached the home bend, Ruby Walsh was still sat motionless on UN DE SCEAUX but was there anything left in the tank from being very keen early on? SPRINTER SACRE eye-balled him and at that precise time, Ruby Walsh knew he was in trouble as NICO DE BOINVILLE and SPRINTER SACRE kicked for home and shot into a crucial lead off the bend, the crowd was roaring, I was screaming, the whole nation was on the edge for the mighty SPRINTER SACRE to do the unthinkable.
He pinged the second last fence and had a good advantage over UN DE SCEAUX and SPECIAL TIARA, who just couldn’t live with him at that precise time. NICO DE BOINVILLE and SPRINTER SACRE approached the last fence and the whole nation was preying for him to get over it. SPRINTER SACRE was untidy at the last and looked very tired and now the hill…NICO DE BOINVILLE was shoving the once unbeatable chaser along he had 6 lengths to spare on the run-in, and commentator Richard Hoiles produced another great commentating display, saying at that precise time “They say they never come back, this one of the great comebacks at the Cheltenham Festival and in National Hunt Racing”. Sprinter SACRE reclaims the Champion Chase! What a horse, what a performance, what a comeback!
It was a long, long journey for two years, but it was an exceptional training performance to get SPRINTER SACRE back to nearly his best and he beat a top-class horse decisively to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase for the second time. He the won his final start that season which proved to be his last ever race. NICKY HENDERSON and the whole United Kingdom shared a tear this day as the superstar SPRINTER SACRE had done the impossible dream, NICO DE BOINVILLE and connections believed in this horse and said dreams do come true, and the mighty horse didn’t let anyone down.
It’s very rare you see a top-class horse comeback from heart problems and win on the most important day of all, especially the Champion Chase and looked back to something like his best. SPRINTER SACRE created one of the greatest Cheltenham Festival comebacks and spread-eagled a high class field and shown why he was once rated as high as 188 in his pomp. To this day, this race will always go down as my favourite race of all time, because normal horses never come back but on the other hand, SPRINTER SACRE was never normal, he was in a league of his own, destroyed all opposition time and time again and ended his career on the highest note you could wish for.
Just think for a second, SPRINTER SACRE done this wonderful achievement and remained unbeaten in all fourth starts on his final season. How much more could he have achieved when winning all of his first 10 chase starts on the bridle before his irregular heartbeat problem happened? He goes down in history as one of the greatest racehorses of all time and I’m very privileged to have seen all his career starts and most importantly, one of the greatest comebacks I’ve ever witnessed.
Either way, he had nothing more to prove in his glorious career and he’s happily retired, probably saying to himself ” I proved you all wrong, how could anyone ever have written me off? Not even a heart problem could stop me making history, and now I’ve proved myself to be one of the greatest 2 mile chasers of all time, something that will never be replaced”. Long live the The “Black Aeroplane” SPRINTER SACRE.
15.30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)
1st: Sprinter Sacre – Nicky Henderson – Nico De Boinville – 5/1
2nd: Un De Sceaux – Willie Mullins – Ruby Walsh – 4/6f
3rd: Special Tiara – Henry De Bromhead – Noel Fehily – 16/1
I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog, do you have a favourite race of all time? Why not comment in the box below and share your thoughts? Thank you.
Cheltenham Festival 2017
I don’t know about you but that read/video has get the hairs on the back of the neck standing! Cheltenham is only 3 weeks away now and I wanted to share a little guide I purchase every year. It’s a cracking read and includes tonnes of info on Cheltenham and the racing coming up at the Festival.
Click the image below to purchase your very own Cheltenham Festival Guide. It’s great for an avid racing fan, which I’m sure you are, so click below and get your Cheltenham Guide as I have already done!
All the best