Weight lifted from Henderson's shoulders

  • Last Updated: February 24 2014, 16:22 GMT

Nicky Henderson will give Sprinter Sacre "a full MOT" after the Seven Barrows trainer ran out of time to get him right for the Cheltenham Festival next month.

Sprinter Sacre wins last year's Champion Chase
Sprinter Sacre wins last year's Champion Chase

The star of jumps racing was dramatically pulled up at Kempton on December 27, where he was quickly diagnosed as suffering from an irregular heartbeat.

That problem righted itself, and he has since been closely monitored by equine specialist Celia Marr.

However, the eight-year-old did not show his usual brilliance in a piece of work on Saturday, and the decision has been taken to miss not only the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase, which he won last year, but also the rest of the season.

He was formerly scratched from the Champion Chase before 1000 on Monday.

Henderson told BBC Radio 5 Live: "He's such a brilliant horse, you can just tell (he wasn't right).

"He was working to 90 per cent of his ability and his capacity.

"Our job is to send him back to the garage, if you like, and get him back and have a full MOT."

In a later interview with At The Races, Henderson revealed that Sprinter Sacre would continue to exercise at home in the weeks ahead.

The trainer said: "I suppose, in a way, it's lifted a brick off our shoulders.

"His heart is working perfectly normal, it is probably ours that hasn't been the last few weeks.

"His heart hasn't done anything wrong since that day at Kempton when it took 24 hours to self-right.

"He had to go to either Kempton on Friday or Newbury on Sunday as he needed a racecourse gallop and I just wouldn't have felt comfortable taking him to a racecourse.

"Kempton was a tremendous shock to the system and there had been no clue at home there was anything wrong.

"His blood is good, his scope is clean and we can not find anything.

"I think there's a sense of relief (that the decision has been made). It was only right to say now, it's getting close.

"We thought it was better to say now rather than push him any further and now everybody knows where we are.

"He'll go out second lot and have an exercise, you can't just stop with him. We'll keep asking questions without galloping him and at some stage he'll go to Ceila Marr in Newmarket to be checked over and I'm sure she'll start with his heart."

Barry Geraghty has spoken of his disappointment at missing out on the chance to land back-to-back Champion Chases.

"It's always a disappointment for connections when any horse is forced out of a big race so relatively close to the Festival, no matter who it is," said Geraghty in his At The Races blog.

"But it really hits home when it is a horse like him with such brilliance and one that every race fan wanted to see perform.

"But once there was an issue there was always a chance it could come back and bite us on the tail although everyone was hoping that it wouldn't and that he'd come through.

"It just hasn't happened but with a horse of his stature it would be impossible to take any risk.

"A safety first approach with him is the only way because he is young enough to come back and rule the roost again when all the gears are connecting.

"The main thing is that we've got him for another day."

Sprinter Sacre's withdrawal left the betting market for the Champion Chase in a much-altered state with Sire De Grugy - due to work at Plumpton before racing on Monday - the new 2/1 favourite with Sky Bet.

Next in the betting are 5/1 second-favourites Benefficient and Arvika Ligeonniere, with Captain Conan, stablemate of Sprinter Sacre, a 6/1 chance.


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