Sprinter Sacre - The Horse of a Lifetime
Updated: Apr 3
Sprinter Sacre is one of the greatest steeplechasers the racing world has ever seen. Un-raced in France before making the move to Nicky Henderson in 2009, he made his racecourse debut in February 2010, winning a bumper at Ascot. He won many other races, including the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham twice, with his 2013 performance earning him a Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 190. Timeform awarded him a rating of 192, putting him above the likes of Kauto Star, beaten only by Arkle and Flyingbolt.
Sprinter Sacre accumulated a cool £1,136,884 in earnings during his career, winning 18 of his 24 races. He outclassed multiple Grade 1 winners before retiring in 2016 following a leg tendon injury.
(All facts correct at time of writing, 04/03/23)
Network: A lightly raced horse, Network ran in Germany in the early 2000s. He was a Group 2 flat winner as a 3-year-old, whilst also running creditably in other Group-level events. He became something of a high-class National Hunt sire upon retiring, siring the likes of Rubi Ball (a multiple Grade 1 winner in France with over £1.5 million in earnings), Delta Work (a multiple Grade 1 winner for Gordon Elliott in Ireland), and of course, Sprinter Sacre. Network passed away in 2019, aged 22.
Fatima III: There is very little information on her as a racehorse, and she only produced 4 horses as a broodmare. Her other offspring include Flinteur Sacre, an average hurdler currently in training with Nicky Henderson, Regain Du Charbonneau, a poor National Hunt horse trained by David Pipe around 2009-2010, and Hermes Sacre, a horse who was with E Leenders in France but only achieved one run. Producing a horse like Sprinter Sacre with very little else to note on and off the track is quite something!
Again, as with Kauto Star, far from the illustrious pedigrees of flat racing, but arguably one of the best National Hunt horses ever. Sprinter Sacre was a machine!
Sprinter Sacre has a very impressive record. He proved his quality in bumpers and over hurdles, but it's as a chaser that he made a name for himself. A 9-time Grade 1 winner, he won 18 times from 24 starts, and much like Kauto Star, the only time that he finished outside of the top 3 in any races was when he failed to complete!
Sprinter Sacre was a top 2m chaser, winning most of his races over this distance. On one occasion, he stepped up to 2m4f in the Melling Chase at Aintree, but he still won by 4.5L. He was a horse that was versatile regarding ground, with wins coming on Good, Good to Soft, Soft and even Heavy. Cheltenham was perhaps his favourite track, winning 5 races from his 7 starts there, including the Queen Mother, twice.
Barry Geraghty was the main jockey and pilot to Sprinter Sacre before his final season, guiding him to victory in most of his races. He had one ride under A P McCoy, finishing 3rd in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and one under David Bass as a conditional, where he won a chase at Doncaster. Towards the end of his career, Nico de Boinville took the reins, winning 4 of the 5 races in which he rode him.
Sprinter Sacre had some health issues in the 2013/14 seasons, making only four racecourse appearances in this time and failing to win. He was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, which lead to him having monitors fitted and being prescribed a period of rest. This didn’t stop him, though, as he rounded out his career with a series of impressive wins.
Most Impressive Wins –
Sprinter Sacre produced several breathtaking performances throughout his chasing career, and it is difficult to only pick a couple of those. For me, though, his performances in the 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase and Melling Chase stand out above the rest.
Sprinter Sacre’s performance in the 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase was something else. Always up with the pace, and jumping fluently, he took the lead with 4 to jump. No sooner had he taken the lead, he was clear and still on the bridle. In the end, it was a procession, jumping with ease and beating his closest challenger, Sizing Europe, by some 19 lengths. Wishfull Thinking and Sanctuaire further back were no slouches either! That was victory number 8 in his 10-race unbeaten run, before pulling up in the Desert Orchid Chase with an irregular heartbeat. He did, however, regain the Queen Mother in 2016.
His performance in the 2013 Melling Chase wasn’t bad either! Lining up against some top-class opposition in Cue Card, Flemenstar, and Finnian's Rainbow, it looked like it was going to be a tall order stepping up to 2m4f for the first time. Sprinter Sacre took it all in his stride, though, and despite not being able to lead for most of the race, showed his class when it mattered to win by some 4.5L. Tracking the leader for much of the race, he never looked in any danger. Approaching 2 out, he applied the pressure and soon took over. A clean jump at the last saw him win impressively, with the rest returning in dribs and drabs.
Sprinter Sacre retired in November 2016, following his 15L victory in the bet365 Celebration Chase seven months prior. He was being prepped to return in the Tingle Creek Chase but sustained a leg tendon injury in training. The National Hunt hero moved from Nicky Henderson's Lambourn yard to that of the event rider and TV presenter Spencer Sturmey in the Cotswolds. He still gets paraded at racecourses, including at Cheltenham, in front of his adoring fans. Most recently, he lead the Tingle Creek runners onto the course at Sandown Park on 3rd December 2022.
Comments from notable people -
Nicky Henderson following his retirement (2016) – “He was the horse of an absolute lifetime. His ability and charisma go together. He is the epitome of the horse who looks the part, moves the part, and is the part. Life will have to go on without him. It has been such an emotional time over the last five or six years, but I have loved every minute."
Barry Geraghty following his retirement (2016) – “He’s something special, and he is to be celebrated. Just unbelievable!”
J.A. McGrath of The Daily Telegraph – “He is the business. He threatens to take the mantle from Frankel as the sport’s chief equine promoter.”
Willie Mullins, trainer of Queen Mother runner-up Un De Sceaux – “Who says they never come back? To be beaten by Sprinter Sacre is no shame, and it is a fantastic performance.”
Jockey Nico de Boinville after winning the Queen Mother aboard Sprinter Sacre – “When he got upsides Un De Sceaux he took him out in a couple of strides. It was amazing!”
From being the third highest-rated horse ever on Timeform ratings to his emphatic victory in the 2013 running of the Queen Mother, Sprinter Sacre was in a class of his own. Not without his injuries, but at his peak, was a force to be reckoned with. A horse with the natural jumping ability to get his opposition on the back foot, and the engine to steam clear without breaking a sweat, a horse like him only comes around once in a lifetime. Had he avoided injury, who knows just how many more times we’d have seen those red and blue stripes hurtling towards the finish line. He was sensational. One of racing's greats and a true equine legend.