Trib­ute to Sprinter Sacre and Si­mon­sig

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

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

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