By Simon Jackson.
Sprinter Sacre returned to the scene of his greatest triumph when storming to victory in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase on Day Two of the Cheltenham Festival.
The Nicky Henderson-trained winner of the 2012 Arkle and 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase was side-lined in December 2013 after suffering a heart scare at Kempton Park but bounced back to his very best form with an emotional victory.
Given a cool ride by jockey Nico de Boinville, Sprinter Sacre tracked the leaders before taking control as 4-6 shot Un De Sceaux began to tire in the closing stages and kept on to score by three and a half lengths from the favourite.
“To come back and do that after all that time – it’s incredible,” Henderson said.
“The two years in the wilderness were dark days. It’s right up there with one of my best achievements.
“He’s been a very special horse. To have those two golden years when he was unbeaten was incredible – I always said I don’t think he’s got back there but maybe he has. He had to be as good as he was to do that today.
“There were days when we thought it was working and then when we didn’t. Caroline [Mould – owner] has just been fantastic. I was never under any pressure at all so we could just do our own thing and if it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen. It’s been well worth it though. Even the public and the press didn’t put us under any pressure – no one was baying for his retirement or anything like that.
“There was always something there. This is completely different to where he was a couple of years ago though. Everybody at the yard has put it all together. He still lives in that funny old barn at the back of the yard in the dark – that’s where he likes it. He doesn’t want to be promoted to another. He likes his little corner and likes doing his own thing.
“He’s just been so feisty all season. We knew he was a different horse this season when he came back in – he just looked so good. He didn’t need another race after Kempton and we didn’t even have a racecourse gallop with him. He’s just so big now – I’ve been looking at him every night for the last three weeks and he’s just so big. He is a treasure.”
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