There are sporting occasions when it is great to be able to say: ‘I was there.’
I am now wishing I had been at Prestbury Park to witness in person what will be the highlight of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, regardless of what happens on Thursday or Friday.
They said it couldn’t be done. That it would be the training achievement to beat all previous training achievements. Well it could. And it was.
Take a bow Nicky Henderson and all his hard working team at Seven Barrows stables. You gave an ageing member of the thoroughbred racing world a second chance. And you made this aging man very happy. Tearful, even.
Sprinter Sacre is a star. That’s long been the case. It is true that form may be temporary. But class is permanent.
Many caring racegoers pleaded with Henderson to retire Sprinter Sacre once he’d undergone a complicated heart operation. They questioned whether the trainer was, for want of a better phrase, flogging a near dead horse. He pulled up at this festival in 2015 and retirement looked likely.
I too had my doubts about the trainer persisting, despite his constant reassurances. But when I watched Sprinter Sacre win by 14 lengths last November, I believed again. Enough to place a good sized stake on Sprinter Sacre to win today. An ante-post bet that paid off very nicely, thank you.
He won again in December and was then put away for the Champion Chase today. The very race he won so impressively back in 2013.
Even those punters who did not back Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham today were, come the final stages of the race, cheering him home to an emphatic victory.
Willie Mullins trained the runner up but was gracious in defeat. He said of the Sprinter Sacre comeback: “I’d have loved to win, but it’s a winner for racing.”
Today the best of the sport was on show. Wish you were there? I do.
Glad you love this sport and were alive to see it? I am.