Sprinter Sacre: Jump racing's 'brilliant' horse is retired after tendon injury

Sprinter Sacre
"It's very humbling to think that he gives so many people so much pleasure," trainer Nicky Henderson said of Sprinter Sacre before the injury

Sprinter Sacre, the jump racing superstar, has been retired after suffering a tendon injury.

The 10-year-old was bought by owners Raymond and Caroline Mould as part of a job lot of 22 horses in France that cost a total of 300,000 euros.

He banked more than £1.1m from 18 wins, nine at the highest level - Grade One.

The total included a rare hat-trick of success at all three of the major spring festivals - at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown in 2013.

But more than that, with his ability and striking dark colouring - trainer Nicky Henderson nicknamed him an 'equine James Bond' - Sprinter Sacre gained a vast following amongst the racing public.

That only grew when a heart condition was diagnosed and, though successfully treated, the horse spent nearly two years out of form and written off by many.

It was a year to the day before his retirement was announced at Cheltenham's Open fixture that Sprinter Sacre returned to the big time on the track with an emotional success in the course's Shloer Chase.

He completed what turned out to be his final season unbeaten with further wins at Kempton, at the showpiece Cheltenham Festival - when he regained the Champion Chase crown - and at Sandown, when Henderson believes he was back to his best.

The plan had been for Sprinter Sacre to race three times this season - in Sandown's Tingle Creek Chase in December, in January's Clarence House Chase at Ascot, and in the Champion Chase.

Jockey Barry Geraghty, who rode the horse 17 times, winning on 13 occasions, said the horse was "just unbelievable".

"He's something special and he is to be celebrated," he said.

"I've never sat on a horse over fences like him - he was electric. He was just unbelievable."

Sprinter Sacre was cheered by racegoers when paraded at Cheltenham on Sunday afternoon
Sprinter Sacre was cheered by racegoers when paraded at Cheltenham on Sunday

Speaking before the Open meeting at Cheltenham got under way on Friday, Henderson acknowledged the vast public affection for Sprinter Sacre.

"We are the curators of this beautiful, very special racehorse," he said.

"It's very humbling to think that he gave, and he gives, so many people in national hunt racing, which is a great big family affair really, so much pleasure."

Later in the day, another Henderson-trained horse Simonsig was put down after breaking a leg during the Shloer Chase.

Henderson added: "Sprinter Sacre's retirement was not a funeral, but a celebration of life, but now we've got the funeral and the tears all of a sudden go the other way.

"It is not fair for the team more than anything."

Analysis

Cornelius Lysaght, BBC horse racing correspondent

What was it about 'Sprinter' that meant the horse was such a hit?

Obviously, he was utterly brilliant, unbeatable indeed for the first two years of his racing career [2011-2013], and achieving that string of wins with a style that was positively transfixing with its power and jumping flamboyance.

Then the wheels famously fell off when the heart condition was diagnosed, but we know the public loves a sporting patient and kept the faith even when their favourite proved a shadow of his former self.

His return to the top was greeted with cheers and tears, and some of the sport's most emotional times of recent years. He's sure to be a star turn on the racehorse retirement circuit - do they still open supermarkets as Red Rum did?

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