It has been a very sad week in the horse racing world with 3 legends of the game leaving us in VAUTOUR, SIMONSIG and SPRINTER SACRE. I would like to start by offering my condolences to Willie Mullins team and owners after the passing away of VAUTOUR last week, who died in a freak accident.
I would also like to offer condolences to the Nicky Henderson team and owners after the tragic events at Cheltenham on Sunday where SIMONSIG fell and broke his leg.
Events like this put everything into perspective within the sport and I have woke up this morning with a real sad feeling for the owners, trainers, jockeys, stable staff and just about anyone who were involved in with both SIMONSIG and VAUTOUR. They will certainly be in my thoughts throughout the week.
I live and breath horse racing and yesterday within the space of 10 minutes it showed me how a world can be turned upside down in a cruel way.
My day started with numerous texts from fellow racing folk about SPRINTER SACRE retiring.
Nicky Henderson had called a press conference at midday and the rumours started flying around as early as 10am.
At midday it was confirmed SPRINTER SACRE was to be retired after an amazing career. For me personally I was happy to celebrate the fantastic career of such a great racehorse, a real horse of a lifetime. He was my favourite horses in training and I did have a feeling of sadness that I wouldn’t get to see the black aeroplane again but happy at the same time that he was finishing at the top.
SPRINTER SACRE was paraded before the Shloer Chase and Nicky Henderson gave a heart warming speech about the black aeroplane and it was real nice to see and hear the love from around the course for this special horse. You could see that Nicky Henderson was shedding a tear but it was tears of joy as it was a celebration of a great horse.
Nicky Henderson speech even mentioned SIMONSIG and about how ironic he was in the same parade ring as SPRINTER SACRE after travelling and winning twice together at two different Cheltenham Festivals.
What happened in the next 10 minutes was tragic with SIMONSIG falling and breaking his leg. My heart goes out to Nicky Henderson and connections, one minute you are retiring your best ever horse and the next minute one of your best horses in training has died. Pretty gut wrenching stuff to have tears of joy followed by tears of sadness in such a short space of time.
I wanted to take this time to reflect on the careers of three racehorses of a lifetime but first of I would like to say RIP VAUTOUR and SIMONSIG and happy retirement to SPRINTER SACRE.
What a racehorse. 16 runs under rules and finished in the first 2 on 15 occasions. The only time he was out of the first two was when falling at Aintree in April. Cheltenham Festival is going to feel strange in 2017 as this horse has been in the winners enclosure the last 3 years.
His best 3 performances in no particular order.
Supreme Novice Hurdle 2014 Cheltenham Festival
VAUTOUR drifted from 5/2 out to 7/2 on the day. He went off favourite but he had his doubters this day including myself. He put us doubters in place by winning by an easy 6 lengths. You knew straight away he was going to be some horse as it was very impressive. The way he jumped and the way he quickened between the last 2 hurdles was a joy to see. Ruby Walsh gave him a fantastic ride and this was just the start of what we were to see from the horse.
JLT Novice Chase 2015 Cheltenham Festival
Vautour was always going to make a smart chaser as he had plenty of scope but not one person expected such a flawless performance from a novice. He was simply electric at every fence and soared to a 15 length win. It was a performance which was good enough to win just about any race he wanted. This performance had superstar written all over it and was probably the performance of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival.
Ryanair Chase 2016 Cheltenham Festival
His very last win and it was a performance of a horse who was destined to be one of the greats of the jumps. It was very much the same performance as when he won the JLT the previous year. Went out from the front, jumped effortlessly and soared clear up the hill. A type of performance you just have to clap. It was simply VAUTOUR at his best.
I always thought personally VAUTOUR would stay further and desperately wanted to see the horse in a Gold Cup. It wasn’t to be and he is a horse who will be sadly missed. RIP Vautour.
A horse who has always had a enormous amount of talent but has been a bit fragile. On his day he was virtually unbeatable.
His best 3 performances in no particular order:
Neptune Novice Hurdle 2012 Cheltenham Festival
This was a performance which showed real class and for a novice to win in the style he did was breathtaking. SIMONSIG didn’t really come off the bridle. He quickened clear like a horse with the world at his feet and comfortably won by 7 lengths. A chasing career awaited the horse and you couldn’t help but get excited.
Wayward Lad Novices Chase 2012 Kempton Boxing Day
Wow – what a performance from the front and for a novice he jumped amazing all the way through. This race is described as a Grade 2 and SIMONSIG won by 35 lengths and he just kept coming further clear all the way to the line. He beat a decent horse in Hinterland who actually went on to win a Grade 1 the season after. This was only SIMONSIG 2nd start over fences and what a way to win.
Arkle Novice Chase March 2013 Cheltenham Festival
This was his last win and it was at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival. It wasn’t his best performance as he made a few mistakes but his class got him through and he stayed on all the way to the line.
He didn’t see a racecourse for another 2 1/2 years after this race but what we did see as a novice were a horse of exceptional ability. It is frightening how good the horse could’ve actually been if he wasn’t so fragile. RIP Simonsig.
We will end on a high by celebrating the life of a horse of a lifetime. SPRINTER SACRE was simply an amazing horse and the type of horse we won’t see again for a long time. He was a stunning horse and the funny thing about him is he knew how good he was. It was like he played with his opposition then say ‘do you know who I am, I’m SPRINTER SACRE’. He had so many gears it is unbelievable. I think he was capable of winning a Gold Cup if he raced in one a few years back. He wasn’t stopping when he won beat Cue Card at Aintree over 2m 4f. He was a horse in a million and I would just like to say Thank you for the memories Sprinter Sacre.
His best 3 performances in no particular order (I could put ten performances he is that good but I will go my favourite three)
Queen Mother Chase 2013 Cheltenham Festival
You will never see an easier Queen Mother Chase winner. SPRINTER SACRE was simply breathtaking. The way he jumped and the way he travelled through this race was that of a horse who knows how good he is. To beat a horse like Sizing Europe by 19 lengths is unbelievable but to do it on the bridle is even more astonishing. A legend at work that is SPRINTER SACRE.
John Smiths Melling Chase 2013 Aintree Festival
Now this was a test for SPRINTER SACRE as he was running over 2m 4f for the first time and in doing so taking on the Ryanair Chase winner, Cue Card. He was a short priced favourite but it was a race of the unknown in terms of distance. He won very easily once again on the bridle. Was there anything this horse couldn’t do.
Queen Mother Chase 2016 Cheltenham Festival
They said he couldn’t do it, they said he couldn’t beat Un Des Sceaux. Well SPRINTER SACRE laughed in everyone’s face ‘ there is simply nothing I cant do’. This horse has had his problems since being pulled up at Kempton at the end of 2013. He had some serious problems and this race was the impossible dream. To be at the racecourse and watch him come home victorious was my best ever feeling at a racecourse. Just watching him bully Un Des Sceaux into submission was something I will never forget. A special, a special talent which I doubt we will see again for many years to come.
Thank you for the memories SPRINTER SACRE, THE LEGEND.