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Sprinter Sacre will not defend his Champion Chase title at next month’s Cheltenham Festival with trainer Nicky Henderson admitting “he is not showing the same brilliance as he did last season”.
The eight-year-old’s place in the race had been in doubt since he was forced to pull up at Kempton on December 27 after fears of an irregular heartbeat.
And while Henderson was hopeful of getting Sprinter Sacre over his health problems and back to his best in time for the Festival, which starts on March 11, he has now thrown in the towel with just over a fortnight to go.
It appears that the 63-year-old’s mind was made up when Sprinter Sacre was felt to be “missing that 10%” during a training session with Triolo D’Alene at the weekend.
Henderson, who is now looking ahead to next season for Sacre, said: “He is not showing the same brilliance as he did last season.
“He worked on Saturday over 10 furlongs with [Grand National hope] Triolo D’Alene, and if it had been any other horse you’d have said he worked well, but the Sprinter of last year would have galloped away from Triolo and he didn’t.
“We know this horse backwards and he is missing that 10%, which might be good enough to still win, but he’s such a special horse, such a public horse, that [owner] Caroline Mould – who’s been very understanding – and me and everyone have decided to miss Cheltenham this time.”