Barry Geraghty has spoken of his disappointment at missing out on the chance to land back-to-back BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chases with Sprinter Sacre.
Nicky Henderson admitted defeat on Sunday in his quest to get the superstar back to his best in time after he was found to be suffering from an irregular heartbeat when pulled up at Kempton over Christmas.
“It’s always a disappointment for connections when any horse is forced out of a big race so relatively close to the Festival, no matter who it is,” said Geraghty said.
“But it really hits home when it is a horse like him with such brilliance and one that every race fan wanted to see perform.
“But once there was an issue there was always a chance it could come back and bite us on the tail although everyone was hoping that it wouldn’t and that he’d come through.
“It just hasn’t happened but with a horse of his stature it would be impossible to take any risk.
“A safety first approach with him is the only way because he is young enough to come back and rule the roost again when all the gears are connecting.
“The main thing is that we’ve got him for another day.”
Henderson decided to draw stumps after Sprinter Sacre failed to produce quite his usual brilliance in his work with Hennessy winner Triolo D’Alene on Saturday.
He said: “I suppose, in a way, it’s lifted a brick off our shoulders.
“His heart is working perfectly normal, it is probably ours that hasn’t been the last few weeks.
“His heart hasn’t done anything wrong since that day at Kempton when it took 24 hours to self-right.
“He had to go to either Kempton on Friday or Newbury on Sunday as he needed a racecourse gallop and I just wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking him to a racecourse.
“Kempton was a tremendous shock to the system and there had been no clue at home there was anything wrong.
“His blood is good, his scope is clean and we cannot find anything.
“I think there’s a sense of relief (that the decision has been made). It was only right to say now, it’s getting close.
“We thought it was better to say now rather than push him any further and now everybody knows where we are.
“He’ll go out second lot and have an exercise, you can’t just stop with him. We’ll keep asking questions without galloping him and at some stage he’ll go to Ceila Marr in Newmarket to be checked over and I’m sure she’ll start with his heart.”
For Sprinter Sacre’s would-have-been rivals, the news came as a welcome surprise, which was certainly the case with Ruby Walsh who will be riding Arvika Ligeonniere for Willie Mullins.
“For Nicky Henderson and the general public it’s a shame but if you’re me and involved with Arvika Ligeonniere it’s not such a big shame,” Walsh said.
“It gives us more of a chance. It’s probably not very sporting but you have to be realistic about these things too, it will be an easier race to win without Sprinter Sacre.
“That said, Sire De Grugy’s form has been rock-solid all year.
“You’d have to fancy Arvika more now that Sprinter Sacre isn’t running. Sure, he has to prove himself going left-handed but I don’t think that’s too much of an issue.
“He was very good in the Tied Cottage and I think I rode him wrong at Christmas (when behind Benefficient), he’s very fit and very well at the moment.
“I dropped him in at Leopardstown and rode him for a bit of pace but I think I should have let him roll and used his jumping.
“You try different things and make mistakes but the key is learning from them.”
Another who has been given a boost by the absence of Sprinter Sacre is the 2011 winner Sizing Europe, who has been rerouted from the Ryanair.
De Bromhead said: “Sizing Europe will go for the Champion Chase. With Sprinter Sacre being ruled out it definitely made the decision easier for us. He seems in good form at the moment, he seems great.
“Special Tiara will also go for the Champion Chase.”
Coral revealed betting interest in the Queen Mother had seen a new life.
Spokesman David Stevens said: “The ’will he, won’t he run’ doubts surrounding Sprinter Sacre since Christmas had all but killed ante-post interest in this year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase.
“But since he was ruled out of the Festival for sure, punters have been quick to make up for lost time, although perhaps surprisingly it’s not the new favourite Sire De Grugy attracting support, but Arvika Ligeonniere, Al Ferof and Alderwood who have proved popular.”
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