CHELTENHAM, England (AP) — Sprinter Sacre regained his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday, capping his recovery from a heart condition that nearly forced his retirement.
The 2013 winner, a 5-1 shot ridden by Nico de Boinville, beat 4-6 favorite Un De Sceaux by 3½ lengths. The pace had been set by Special Tiara (16-1), who finished just a nose behind Un De Sceaux in third.
Sprinter Sacre has recovered from a series of health issues, including a fibrillating heart which kept him out of action for over a year.
"It's been a long, long journey — those were two very, very grim years," trainer Nicky Henderson said. "That was unbelievable ... to come back and do that after all that time — everyone has done a fantastic job.
"There were some hard days, but it was certainly worth the effort."
Even rivals were pleased to see Sprinter Sacre triumph.
"My first thought is maybe the ground was quick enough, but we've been beaten by Sprinter Sacre and there's certainly no shame in that," Un De Sceaux trainer Willie Mullins said. "It's an unbelievable training performance by Nicky Henderson and who says they don't come back?
"Just listen to the crowd. I would say that's a winner for racing."
The much-acclaimed success on the track came as misconduct by a group of soccer players the previous at Cheltenham led to public disgrace and their tickets for Wednesday's racing being canceled.
Pictures were published appearing to show two players urinating into a beer glass. The contents were then thrown over a balcony.
Samir Carruthers, a midfielder with second-tier club MK Dons, was fined two weeks' wages by his club and suspended from playing at the weekend.
James Collins, a striker who is on loan at fourth-tier Northampton from Shrewsbury, was also fined the maximum allowable two weeks' wages and warned about his future conduct.
"I have completely let myself, my family, the fans, and the two clubs that I represent down and I am sorry to everyone involved," Collins said.