Sprinter Sacre secures sensational success in Champion Chase

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© 2012 Daily Sport Limited

Sprinter Sacre ensured that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house after he landed an emotional running of the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham this afternoon.

The 5/1 second favourite won this race in 2013 but had not been at his best since following well-documented problems with his heart but there had been signs in recent months that he was back to somewhere near championship winning form.

Given a cool ride by jockey Nico de Boinville, Sprinter Sacre tracked the leaders throughout and took up the running turning for home as both Un De Sceaux and Special Tiara began to weaken.

An awkward jump at the last didn’t stop his momentum as he ran on up the hill to record a three and a half-length victory from 4/6 favourite Un De Sceaux.

His victory gave trainer Nicky Henderson his 55th Festival winner and his fourth winner of the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. Henderson was understandably emotional following the race and struggled to hold back the tears as his stable star was given a hero’s welcome back into the winners’ enclosure.

“To come back and do that after all that time – it’s incredible,” said Henderson.

“The two years in the wilderness were dark days. It’s right up there with one of my best achievements. I did say that if he and Tent (My Tent Or Yours who was second in the Stan James Champion Hurdle after two years off the track) won then I’d retire!

“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.

“This is what we do it for. He is a treasure – of course he is. You can see from the reaction – he’s quite popular!”

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