Superstar Sprinter Sacre makes comeback from heart problem

Sprinter Sacre returned to the fray after 13 months on the sidelines with a heart problem

Story highlights

  • Star jumper Sprinter Sacre makes comeback after 13 months on the sidelines
  • But the nine-year-old has to settle for second at wintry Ascot behind Dodging Bullets
  • Trainer Nicky Henderson remains optimistic despite defeat

(CNN)Universally acknowledged as one of the finest racehorses to ever jump a fence, Sprinter Sacre drew the crowds for his comeback at a wintry Ascot, Saturday.

The nine-year-old, renowned for his attacking style of spectacular jumping, was back after spending 13 months on the sidelines with a heart murmur.
On his toes before the race and with a silky sheen of sweat on his skin, this enthusiastic chaser looked in excellent physical condition and seemed eager to do his job on his belated return.
    But his gusto might have proved his undoing given his distinct lack of big race running.
    The nine-year-old was scratchy early in the race and his jumping scruffy, but he traveled powerfully into the straight under jockey Barry Geraghty.
    Sprinter Sacre looked the winner approaching the second last obstacle before being shot down by the overwhelming run of Dodging Bullets.
    Smooth running on Ascot race day
    Smooth running on Ascot race day


      Smooth running on Ascot race day


    Smooth running on Ascot race day 03:11
    "There was no messing about. They went a good gallop and it just found him out in the end," trainer Nicky Henderson told the media at Ascot.
    "I loved the way he traveled. Only one day matters and he'll come on plenty for this."
    The day in question is the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, the best two mile steeplechase in the British horse racing calendar and a race which Sprinter Sacre won by 19 astonishing lengths in 2013.
    That performance was described by respected ratings organization Timeform as "the finest performance of the modern era."
    Yet as Ascot was cloaked in dusk and the crowd began to wend their way home while the bookmakers balanced their books, news broke of Sprinter Sacre bleeding from the nose after the race.
    While Henderson said that this issue could not have affected his comeback performance, questions began to form about further implications for his Festival participation.
    Despite reasons for hope after his comeback, a heart murmur is not a problem that will immediately wisp away but rather one that will still require vigilance.
    After optimism in defeat, the coming days will prove whether doubt will more sternly shroud one of the greatest horses we are ever likely to see.