Horse Racing News – 14th November 2016

Peerless Sprinter Calls It A Day But Simonsig Loss Tough To Take

Two of the biggest stories of the weekend revolved, not around the winners at the track, but two stars who we will never see race again. Both hailed from the Lambourne yard of Nicky Henderson and both were brilliant winners at the Cheltenham Festival. The manner in which they departed the racing scene however, could hardly have been more contrasting.

Sprinter Sacre Retired

The imperious Sprinter Sacre of course needs little introduction. A winner of 18 of his 24 career starts, including nine at Grade 1 level, the highest rated chaser since Arkle, was truly the horse of a lifetime. I expect I am not alone in ranking his sensational victory in the 2016 Champion Chase as my number one racing moment. He had no doubt been better, purely in terms of ratings, at his unbeatable pomp than he was that day.

But given the back story of his heart issues and calls for retirement, there can have been few more heart-warming sites than seeing him turn back the clock to master the Cheltenham Hill and his rivals one last time, in the style of the all-time great he undoubtedly is. Well, Sprinter is retired now, more as a precautionary measure due to a slight leg issue than any loss of love for the game. We wish him well, and thanks for the memories.

Farewell to Simsonsig

Whilst Sprinter Sacre went out on something of a high, being paraded in front of his adoring fans, the manner in which his stablemate, Simonsig, departed the scene, ruthlessly exposed how cruel this game can be.

Similarly troubled by health issues over the years, the 2012 Neptune and 2013 Arkle winner, seemed to be coming back to something like his old self having been treated with supreme patience and care by Henderson and his team.  Reportedly flying at home ahead of the Shloer Chase, we will sadly never get to see whether he could have re-attained the heights of old, as a leg injury suffered in a third fence fall ended not just his race, but, heartbreakingly for connections, his life.

BetVictor Gold Cup Glory for O’Neill

Back to the action on the track and Saturdays big handicap of the BetVictor Gold Cup went to a horse who already knows his way around the winner’s enclosure at Cheltenham. Jonjo O’Neill’s Taquin Du Seuil won the JLT Novices’ Chase here back in 2014, but had just the one subsequent win to his name prior to Saturday’s contest.

He once again demonstrated is liking for this venue however in hauling in the long-time leader, Village Vic, in the dying strides. This was a welcome big race win for O’Neill as his stable has been a little in the doldrums of late. Sunday’s main event, the Greatwood Hurdle, came down to a battle between Paul Nicholls’, Modus and North Hill Harvey, from the yard of Dan Skelton. Skelton of course previously worked under Nicholls at Ditcheat, and the apprentice defied the master here as North Hill Harvey toughed it out for a hard-fought success.

Looking Ahead

We have top class action on both sides of the Irish Sea this coming weekend, with Saturday’s excellent card at Haydock featuring the Betfair Chase and Betfair Exchange Fixed Brush Hurdle. Over at Punchestown on Sunday we have a potentially fascinating Morgiana Hurdle, with star names Faugheen, Annie Power, Vroum Vroum Mag and Apples Jade all featuring amongst the current entries.