Tribute to Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig
Talking to Nicky Henderson about Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig
Time was a few years ago that Barry Geraghty’s dreaded the moment when he would be forced to choose between Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig when they finally met on this racecourse.
“It would be like choosing between family and that wouldn’t go down well with anyone,” he concedes.
“The year Sprinter won the Champion Chase and Simonsig landed the Arkle the biggest concern for me was how we were going to split them,” he added as he discussed the two wonderful steeplechasers who had taken the racing world by storm.
We know now that they never did race against each other, in part because frequent injuries and training problems severely restricted their accumulation of glory.
Henderson would frequently say in those early days that he had never seen other horses do what Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig did on his gallops in the morning. No wonder he was afraid to work them together.
Now, after an unbearable sequence of events at Cheltenham last Sunday, tens of thousands of jumping enthusiasts are coming to terms with the reality that the two stable companions have both left the stage for the final time.
Sprinter Sacre, the mighty jet black aeroplane who lightened all our lives, is now happily in retirement after sustaining a minor tendon injury.
Tears were shed by Nicky Henderson and many others as he spoke movingly before racing on Sunday about the finest horse he has trained in a long, distinguished career.
He hinted that the occasion was more a celebration for the magnificent animal who touched so many lives and you sensed a degree of relief, too, that the old warrior, a giant of a horse in every way, had survived so many setbacks to enjoy a long retirement.
Then, to thunderous applause, Sprinter Sacre was led round the Cheltenham paddock for one final time before his trainer, clearly touched by the reception, in turn generously applauded all the enthusiasts crowded onto the steps surrounding the parade ring.
Henderson’s words were still ringing in our ears less than an hour later when his other superstar SImonsig, a fleet-footed grey ghost of a horse, was put down after breaking a leg in a fall at the third fence.
Many more tears were shed as the news of his shocking demise spread quickly through the large crowd assembled at the home of steeplechasing.
For all his brilliance in winning at the Festival in successive years Simonsig will be remembered as an unlucky horse who never got the chance to confirm his true ability.
Jump racing fans appreciate that ours is a sport with a habit of stretching emotions to breaking point.
Henderson, poor man, looked utterly bereft at Simonsig’s fate, yet somehow kept himself together during a series of interviews when he would surely have preferred to gather his thoughts on his own.
Time will show that Henderson handled both horses with a rare sureness of touch given their endless problems which led to so many sleepless nights for him at Seven Barrows.
The good news for admirers of Sprinter Sacre is that a book on his exploits entitled ‘The Impossible Dream’ was recently published by the Racing Post.
Edited by the ageless scribe Brough Scott, who to his delight and surprise, has recently been signed up as part of ITV’s new look racing team, it is a golden treasury, lavishly illustrated, which serves as a fitting tribute to the best two mile chaser I