Brough Scott: It could always be worse [H&H VIP]

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  • It should not just be Monty Python fans that whistle Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

    The thousands who have made Sprinter Sacre the most popular horse in training should do it too. For while he may have been pulled up in his comeback race at Kempton, he remains with us.

    He is certainly in a lot better shape than were the original performers of the song. If you don’t remember, they were being crucified in the closing scene of The Life of Brian.

    The irregular heartbeat that was later diagnosed in Sprinter Sacre is something from which Denman made sufficient recovery to win the Hennessy and run three times second in the Gold Cup.

    All is not lost, as it was for Best Mate on his comeback at Exeter on 1 November 2005. He did not trot back sound, but keeled over dead in front of everyone.

    Compared with him, Sprinter Sacre has had little more than an inconvenience. Yes, always look on the bright side.

    Trainer Nicky Henderson’s team clearly did. For they followed the Sprinter Sacre debacle with eight wins and two seconds from their next 10 runners, the last six coming in succession. They included the return to form of the Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.

    While we applaud, we should also wonder at the physical extravagance that makes Sprinter Sacre so exciting. At Kempton, we only really saw it with one spectacular effort at the open ditch, which must have gone close to the world record for the equine long jump of 8.4m (27ft 6in).

    That was set, as possibly you also don’t remember, in Johannesburg
    on 26 April 1975 by a horse called Something, ridden by one Andre Ferreira.

    They may have been helped by being stretched over a water jump and being at 1,753m (5,751ft) above sea level, but it is hard to think that Sprinter Sacre reaching up a stride early mid-race could not beat them.

    In these days of freeze-frame TV technology, it should not be that difficult to devise measurement.

    It would be a great piece of publicity for racing and for that day’s broadcaster Racing UK. Come on, guys, I think we ought to know.

    This is not an entirely facetious suggestion. For records are the simple handholds with which observers can lever themselves into a position of wider curiosity for the sport in question.

    Even someone who has not so much as popped a pony over a pole would find it hard to dismiss the achievement of the Chilean cavalryman Captain Alberto Larraguibel. With his horse Huaso, he cleared the world record 2.47m (8ft 1¼in) back in 1949.

    The great German Olympian Franke Sloothaak and Leonardo jumped a redbrick wall at 2.4m (7ft 10in) in an outdoor puissance in 1991. Have a look at them both on YouTube, even if the 1949 clip is a bit shaky and sepia.

    Franke and Leonardo are as cool as you like at the wall (and in full colour), but Alberto is a whole lot more dramatic as he gallantly thunders into an awesome set of sloping poles.

    He gives Huaso a couple of mighty blows before take-off, almost capsizes after a near vertical descent, loses his military hat in the stumble and is than chaired off by his fellow officers.

    Racing is full of splendid facts, but most of them are hidden by racing professionals. They barrage you with mind-numbing form figures along the lines of how many pounds better off this horse is with that since they last ran against each other at Catterick a month ago on Wednesday.

    For instance, did you know that a thoroughbred’s heart is usually about 1% of its body weight, making Sprinter Sacre’s about 5.4 kilos (11lb 14oz)?

    Or that at full speed it gets up to 240 beats a minute shifting about a quart of blood (0.95l) per beat meaning that up to 75 gallons (284l) are shifted every 60sec?

    No, me neither, but my ticker is getting a bit irregular thinking about it.

    The Sprinter Sacre balloon did not exactly burst at Kempton, but its deflation was a peculiarly mouth-gaping disappointment.

    Let’s hope the balloon blows up again soon, for neither he nor we are in Monty Python’s crucifixion scene yet.

    Have a Happy New Year and… always look on the bright side.