Sprinter Sacre was recently described by his trainer Nicky Henderson as being “as good-looking a horse as you will see”.
Beauty is not everything, of course, but the seven-year-old has already demonstrated he is far more than mere equine eye-candy as he steamrollered any rival put his way over fences.
While Henderson seems to be gradually arriving at the public conclusion Sprinter Sacre is the best he has ever trained, ahead of such exceptional racehorses like Remittance Man and See You Then, another impressive victory in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase could seal that position beyond dispute.
Sprinter Sacre might look like the perfect racehorse, with his giant black frame and gentle disposition, but he is not actually a traditional racehorse at all.
The seven-year-old’s sire is a thoroughbred in Network, a decent performer on the Flat in Germany, but his dam Fatima III is a Selle Franais, meaning she is from a breed used for sport horses such as eventers and showjumpers.
This makes Sprinter Sacre an AQPS (Autre Que Pur-Sang), or non-thoroughbred, but this is nothing unusual in National Hunt racing these days as other decorated French-bred jumpers of recent years such as The Fellow and Edredon Bleu have enjoyed notable success in Britain.
He was only the second foal to be bred by a young farmer, Christophe Masle, who bought Fatima III as a bit of fun and a diversion from raising his Charolais cows.
As is now the case, many British owners and trainers look to pick up these sort of horses from France and Masle’s first foal, Regain Du Charbonneau, found his way across the Channel for an unremarkable career with David Pipe.
Masle is based right next to the National Stud in Cercy La Tour, in the central region of France, and when Sprinter Sacre was a foal he won his class at the Decize show, where influential French buyers look for potential talent.
This saw him eventually find his way to his current owner in Britain, Caroline Mould.
First introduced to a racecourse in February 2010 at Ascot, he had evidently been showing something at home to be sent off at odds-on in a bumper.
He duly won, leading Henderson to describe him as a “lovely prospect” and giving him one more successful outing that spring at Ayr.
Just like bumpers, hurdle races were only ever to be a stepping stone for fences.
Sprinter Sacre had a promising second season, winning a couple of times before Henderson, perhaps a shade reluctantly, let the Mould family run him in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Deserted by Henderson’s jockey Barry Geraghty in favour of the out-and-out hurdler Spirit Son, Sprinter Sacre finished just over a length behind his stablemate as the pair took second and third place.
That was his last experience over the little obstacles, and, unsurprisingly, the final time he has ever been beaten.
Geraghty was required at Cheltenham on the day Sprinter Sacre made his chasing debut at Doncaster on December 9, 2011, and David Bass was allowed the experience of a lifetime as the gelding dazzled over the fences and announced himself a serious candidate for that season’s Arkle Trophy at the Festival.
From that moment onwards, Geraghty was not going to let him go, describing the rising star as “one of the best I’ve ever sat on” after he annihilated the top-class hurdler Peddlers Cross at Kempton – no faint praise from a jockey who partnered one of history’s greatest two-milers in Moscow Flyer.
By the time Sprinter Sacre had finished off seasoned rivals in the Game Spirit at Newbury, he had acquired from Henderson the nickname of the “big black aeroplane”.
The momentum built and built as he coasted seven lengths clear in the Arkle and by even further at Aintree.
“He has been amazing all season but you are getting to the stage now where anything but perfection doesn’t do,” Henderson said at Liverpool.
“Just because they are beautiful doesn’t make them the best horses – it should do, but it doesn’t always apply.
“Here it just does – everything fits everywhere and he has the athleticism and the attitude.”
The two-mile division may not be exceptionally strong at the moment, but Sprinter Sacre has looked so good in both his starts this season, the Sandown’s Tingle Creek and the rearranged Victor Chandler at Cheltenham, that the opposition appears irrelevant.
Get ready for him to take off again on March 13.