Nicky Henderson stepping Sprinter Sacre back up in work following heart scare
Seven Barrows trainer saddles his first runner, Une Artiste, at Thurles
Nicky Henderson: has his first runner, Une Artiste, at Thurles.
Nicky Henderson is steadily stepping Sprinter Sacre back up in work following the brilliant chaser’s heart scare last month.
National Hunt racing’s brightest star suffered his first defeat over fences when pulled up sharply by Barry Geraghty in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on December 27th, after which he was found to be suffering from an irregular heartbeat.
After being examined by Celia Marr, a specialist in equine internal medicine and cardiology at Newmarket, Sprinter Sacre’s heart “righted itself” and he was monitored closely as he did his first canter since at Seven Barrows on January 3rd.
‘Sprinter Sacre’s great’
Henderson reports last season’s superb Queen Mother Champion Chase winner to be looking “magnificent”. “Sprinter Sacre’s great, Nico’s (De Boinville, his regular work-rider) happy with him, but he’s not doing anything quick at the moment. We’re just building him up,” said the champion jumps trainer.
“There’s nothing new except he looks magnificent, is moving well and is feeding well. We’ll just leave it at that for the time being.
“There’s no great big tests or gallops or anything coming up in the foreseeable future but there will be nearer the time.”
First runner at Thurles
Henderson will saddle his first runner at Thurles when Une Artiste lines up in Thursday’s Fame And Glory and Sans Frontieres Coolmore National Hunt Sires EBF Mares Novice Chase. With a total prize fund of 52,500 euro, it is no surprise the two-and-a-half-mile contest has attracted a strong field of 12 runners.
The highest-rated mare in the field is Une Artiste, who got off the mark over fences at the second attempt at Huntingdon last month and crosses the Irish Sea in search of some valuable black type.
Henderson said: “She could have run at Newbury for £2,700, or go to Ireland and run for more than €30,000. She’s in good form and already has black type, but this is a good opportunity.
‘Knows his way round’
“I’ve never been to Thurles, but Barry (Geraghty, jockey) knows his way round.”
Connections of Chiltern Hills are under no illusions about the task facing the Willie Mullins-trained mare. The seven-year-old opened her account over hurdles in testing conditions at Sligo last May and again hit the target on much faster ground at Limerick in July.
However, she struggled from an early stage on her recent chasing debut at Naas and was pulled up by Ruby Walsh a long way from home. Steve Massey, racing manager for the owners Supreme Horse Racing, said: “We’re putting the cheek-pieces back on her, which will hopefully help, and she also seems to be a bit better going right-handed.
“It’s a tough race, but it’s good to be involved in these kind of races. The prize-money is fantastic and if we can pick some of it up we’ll be delighted.”
Trainer Robert Tyner believes the JP McManus-owned Byerley Babe is capable of making her presence felt. Winner of a point-to-point, a bumper and two hurdle races, the seven-year-old completed the set when scoring over fences at Limerick’s Christmas Festival.
Tyner said: “She should run well, hopefully. She’s been in good form since Limerick. She should handle the ground and won her bumper here.
“Fingers crossed she should run a nice race.”
Feature in line-up
Stuart Crawford’s Aibrean and the Neil McKnight-trained Leish Oscar also feature in the line-up.
The Mullins-trained Clondaw Court gets the chance to enhance his reputation in the WT O’Grady Memorial EBF Novice Hurdle later on the card. The Punchestown bumper winner was made to pull out all the stops when long odds-on for his hurdling bow at Leopardstown over Christmas, but that was his first appearance in over a year.