The Return

- -

One of the most anticipated comebacks in the world of sport is expected to go down when Sprinter Sacre faces the starter for the first time in more than a year Saturday at Ascot.

Sprinter Sacre, who saw his 10-race win streak come to an end when he was pulled up in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton back in December 2013, takes on four others in the Sodexo Clarence House Chase going 2 1/8 miles. The 9-year-old French-bred son of Network was found to be suffering from a heart issue after he was pulled up in the Desert Orchid.

Sprinter Sacre has reportedly trained forwardly for his comeback with Nicky Henderson, including an impressive schooling session at Newbury a few weeks ago.

The gelding’s comeback is generating a lot of buzz overseas, including this piece from The Guardian Friday morning, and one of Sprinter Sacre’s memorable victories got the attention of This Is Horse Racing’s Sean Clancy back in 2013.

Sean was on hand for Sprinter Sacre’s win in the Sportingbet Queen Mother at Cheltenham. He said the gelding “defies description” when recounting the moment in his piece from Dec. 24, 2013.

Here’s the full text of Sean’s piece:


Sean’s Top 10: Sprinter Sacre

My Top 10 for 2013. No rules, other than I had to be there. I had to be at Saratoga, or Cheltenham, or the Breeders’ Cup. I had to hug the trainer at the wire, or feel the heat of the horse in the palm of my hand or see something no one else had seen. Part personal, part professional, these are my moments for 2013. Here goes.

Number 10. Sprinter Sacre. March 13. Cheltenham. From afar, the favorite for the Sportingbet Queen Mother did exactly what he was meant to do, simply and surreally win the 2-mile champion chase at the best steeplechase meet in the world, win number eight in a 10-race win streak that he still rides today. He did it with a nonchalant shrug – Harry Callahan chewing his hot dog as he’s felling the bank robber. We describe horses in a lot of ways, we describe races in a lot of ways, Sprinter Sacre defies description. I’ve never seen a horse bounce off the ground like he does, I keep flicking my fingers above my keyboard, trying to roust the right words to describe his action, his elegance.

As tradition, we trekked out to the third-to-last for the Queen Mother, the one coming down the hill, the one where the race is won or lost. Sprinter Sacre ranged up to Sizing Europe, the duo rolled down the hill, Sizing Europe starting to feel pressure, Sprinter Sacre feeling nothing but freedom of the moment. With a neck advantage, Sprinter Sacre rose in the air, arced and touched down, then jockey Barry Geraghty reached up and took another hold of him. At a moment when the screws are meant to be turned, Geraghty reset the odometer, ‘whoa, big boy.’ Standing there, as fast as they rushed past, you saw Geraghty reach up ever so delicately, bending his fingers down, changing his grip, asking Sprinter Sacre for restraint, for patience, then you saw the horse give it. Restraint and patience in the middle of the storm, the middle of the car crash. I’ve never seen it done at this fence, at this time, of this race. The race was over, the margin was just a neck, maybe a half-length, with two fences still to go and a former champion of the race at his throat, but it was over.

Sprinter Sacre and Sizing Europe descended down the hill as the crowd roared – the race still going, but long since decided.


Racing Post entries for the 3:00 Saturday at Ascot.

Read what Nicky Henderson thinks about the comeback and the race.