Sprinter Sacre: Chasing at its best
Our Will Hayler finds that his love for Sprinter Sacre burns more brightly than ever after his blistering victory in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park - but now he'll have to get used to sharing him with the rest of the racing world.
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Poor Sanctuaire. He never really had a chance.
Even without having to be asked for third gear and despite some jumps which didn't live up to his very high standards, Sprinter Sacre was simply - and probably shall remain for the foreseeable future - different gravy.
Sanctuaire was arguably jumping the better of the pair down the back straight, winging his way over the Railway fences without Ruby Walsh looking as if he was asking for maximum effort.
But Barry Geraghty was all the time inching Sprinter Sacre towards his rival and when the pair touched down on landing over the Pond Fence, it suddenly became apparent that the reason for Walsh's lack of animation was that he knew his mount had simply nothing left to give.
As Sanctuaire dropped steadily backwards, eventually and somewhat unjustly having to surrender second place to Kumbeshwar on the run-in, Sprinter Sacre's gallop remained ever relentless. It was 15 lengths at the line, but it could have been 30 - hell, it could probably have been 115.
No horse is invincible and those looking for hairline cracks may point to the fact that he has already undergone surgery to correct his breathing, often an indication that an underlying problem may re-occur in the future. But the niggling doubts are more than compensated for by this horse's sheer ability.
In some respects, the comparison between Sprinter Sacre and Frankel that others have already drawn is a strange one - but what they could have in common is the sheer dominance of their sphere.
Bookmakers gained little benefit from Frankel's career as he turned the sport's premier races into non-contests offering little appeal to punters, but racing reaped a PR reward. So should it prove with Sprinter Sacre, whose victory produced remarkable scenes at Sandown as the crowd broke into spontaneous cheering which lasted well after the race.
"It's great to see a crowd like this who genuinely appreciate steeplechasing at its best - and I think we nearly saw it," said Henderson. "If it's good for racing, then it's good for us."
Ascot, Cheltenham and Aintree are pencilled in by the trainer as the next stops on the tour this season and none of the trio tend to need much help in getting bums on seats. But the news that the Sprinter is in town won't do any harm. Nor will the fact that he is about the best-looking thoroughbred you will ever see.
Sprinter Sacre may have been bought as part of a job lot of 20 horses from France, but my strong suspicion is that he'll have to get used to being on a pedestal. This story, like the horse himself, should run and run.