Sceptical’s fatal injury robs racing of great rags-to-riches fairy tale
Ireland’s top sprinter, Sceptical, sustained a fatal injury on the gallops yesterday, robbing Flat racing of one of its rags-to-riches success stories.
In less than 12 months, the fouryear-old reached the top of the sprint rankings in his own country, finished third at Royal Ascot and second in the July Cup, winning more than £120,000 – all for an original outlay of just £2,800.
He was being prepared for a Group Three race at the Curragh on Sunday when the injury struck, dealing a crushing blow to his trainer Denis Hogan and owner James McAuley, who have forged a reputation for success with castoffs, of which Sceptical was the star.
Bred by Godolphin, he was sold as an unraced gelding at a bargainbasement price a year ago on Friday. He won four of his seven starts and looked to have an exciting career ahead of him.
Hogan said: “We have been dealt a devastating, cruel blow with the loss of our superstar sprinter Sceptical. He was a horse of a lifeFancy time and a game changer for my training career.”
Sceptical and his jockey, Frankie Dettori, had become one of the headline acts of ITV Sport’s summer coverage of British horse racing, which it was announced yesterday would continue free-toair on the network until 2023.
After a drawn-out process, ITV will have exclusive rights to nearly 100 days of racing each year when the present deal, which began in 2017, runs out. It includes guaranteed coverage of racing’s marquee events – the Cheltenham Festival, Grand National, Derby and Royal Ascot – on ITV’s main channel.
The conclusion of the deal, for which ITV is reported to be paying £8-£9 million a year – up from £7.5million – is a major boost to racing, which has had no spectators, resulting in prize-money cuts.
ITV has succeeded in delivering increased viewing figures, with this year’s Royal Ascot meeting, despite having to take place without the Queen and traditional pageantry, drawing eight-year high figures and the Derby being watched by more than 2.2million, the highest since 2012. This year, ratings for both ITV and ITV4 combined are 22 per cent higher than last year, and 45 per cent higher than when Channel 4 held the contract.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the abandonment of racing at Yarmouth on Monday over concerns about the safety of the track after a horse suffered a fatal fall, Friday’s fixture at the track has been moved to Wolverhampton while further checks are carried out.
Horse of a lifetime: Irish sprinter Sceptical in full flow on the way to victory at Naas