Sprinter Sacre will not defend his title at the Cheltenham Festival, after trainer Nicky Henderson declared he is not showing his usual “brilliance”.
Despite his recent health scare the eight-year-old was the 4-5 favourite to win the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase for the second year running. However, Henderson made the tough decision to withdraw Sprinter following a training session with his stablemate, Hennessy Gold Cup winner Triolo D'Alene.
“Sprinter's work over ten furlongs was all right, and with any other horse you'd think it was fine, but Sprinter is not showing the same brilliance as last season. He is just ten per cent short of that,” Henderson told the Racing Post.
The chaser was pulled up Kempton in December by his jockey Barry Geraghty. He was later diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, which then self-righted itself.
"Thankfully his heart is fine and there is no problem there," said Henderson.
Before this incident Sprinter was unbeaten in 10 starts over fences – the last of which were at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown. It has been decided to focus on bringing Sprinter back to his former glory, ready for next season.
The favourite for the Champion Chase on 12 March is now Sire De Grugy, who won the grade two race in which Sprinter was pulled up.