Trainer Nicky Henderson revelled in a fairytale comeback after Sprinter Sacre rolled back the years with a vintage display to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.
The 10-year-old 5/1 shot, ridden by Nico de Boinville, outstripped three other former winners of the race including 4/6 favourite Un De Sceaux to repeat his 2013 triumph by seven lengths.
Sprinter Sacre’s victory generated the biggest cheer of the week so far and rewarded Henderson’s patience in gradually nursing his superstar back from heart problems to top form.
“That was unbelievable,” Henderson said. “That was about dreams. Dreams do actually happen and come alive. It’s been a long, long journey, those were two very, very grim years.
“He has been a very special horse. For those two golden years [2012-13] he was unbeatable. I said he couldn’t come back to his best, but maybe he has. He had to be as good as he ever was to do that.”
De Boinville admitted connections had considered retiring Sprinter Sacre due to his health problems and added: “I knew I had to get upsides Un De Sceaux and see what he was made of. It’s incredible and I’m flabbergasted.”
Sprinter Sacre’s win denied trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh a second winner of Ladies Day to add to their hat-trick on Tuesday, the opening day of the festival.
Mullins and Walsh combined to land the opening Novices’ Hurdle with 3/1 shot Yorkhill, who won a duel with Alan King’s 11/10 favourite Yarnworth by almost two lengths.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Blaklion timed his surge to perfection to win the RSA Chase, 22-year-old jockey Ryan Hatch guiding the 8/1 chance to a narrow win over Mullins’s Shaneshill in second, with Jonjo O’Neill’s 6/4 favourite More Of That third.