Nicky Henderson paid an emotional tribute to his horse of a lifetime after announcing Sprinter Sacre’s retirement today (13 November).
The dual Champion Chase winner was paraded in front of an adoring crowd at Cheltenham’s The Open meeting ahead of the Shloer Chase — the race he won 12 months ago.
“We’re going to miss him. It’s been a great journey. Sarwah Mohammed [Sprinter’s stable lad] lives with him day and night — the horse bites him all day and night and he laughs about it,” said Nicky.
“Life goes on without him, but it’s been an emotional time over six years and we’ve loved every minute of it.”
The 10-year-old gelding, who is owned by Caroline Mould, made an impressive comeback to the racecourse in 2015, having been pulled up at Kempton in December 2013 — he was found to be suffering from an irregular heartbeat.
Remarkably, he went on to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March this year.
The decision to retire Sprinter was made after he picked up a leg injury on the gallops at home.
“He was a bit warm in one leg — we have scanned the leg and it gave us the news we dreaded,” confirmed Nicky.
“I think knowing at his age, that you can’t come back for another session at 11 rising 12. I spoke to Caroline yesterday and I’m afraid we’ve got to say the journey’s over.”
The French-bred gelding won 18 races during his career and was unbeaten in 10 consecutive outings over fences.
“He’s been a great part of my life — it’s been an extraordinary journey. If we’d finished it after Kempton [when he was pulled up] then he would have just been the most fantastically good racehorse and you would have been able to leave it alone. But what happened last year [his comeback] is something that will never be repeated, in terms of emotions anyway — it took us all to the brink,” added the trainer, who fought to hold back his tears.
“Ability and charisma went together with him — very often they don’t. You go to the sales and buy a beautiful horse and nine times out of 10 they are rubbish. He was the epitome of the horse who looks the part, moves the part, and it has worked.”
The gelding will spend his retirement at David and Juliet Minton’s Mill House Stud in Shropshire but will continue to take part in racecourse parades.