Racing Comebacks: Four Cheltenham Festival tearjerkers
Part of the beauty of Jumps racing is that we get to see our favourite horses come back season after season. However as the famous phrase goes, “Getting to the top is easy, the hard part is staying there”; so it’s hardly surprising that once a star’s form begins to dip that they seldom make it back to the lofty heights which they’d once scaled.
Every now and again though we are treated to one of our fan favourites coming back from an injury or a dip in form to reclaim the top prizes, much to the delight of the racing world.
Here we profile four of our favourite recent comebacks that brought the racing world to rapture.
Sprinter Sacre regains his Champion Chase Crown in 2016
Sprinter Sacre’s record at the start of his career was almost unmatched; by the end of the 2012/2013 season he’d won 14 of his 16 races including seven Grade Ones in succession, many of which he did looking completely untroubled by the competition he faced.
So dominant was he that racing analysts Timeform allotted him a rating of 192 at the end of the 2012/2013 season; placing him only behind the almost mythical racing legends of the 1960s, Flying Bolt and Arkle.
However, the seemingly unbeatable Sprinter Sacre’s story took an unforeseen turn when he was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and his subsequent break and decline in form saw him drop into the racing wilderness for two seasons.
His famous return to form started at Cheltenham’s November meeting with a dominant win in the Shloer Chase and reached its crescendo in the 2016 Champion Chase as he regained his crown with an emotional and loving crowd shouting “three cheers for Sprinter” around the winners’ enclosure.
The Tiger Woods story is simply extraordinary – but doesn't come close to my best 'greatest comeback' story. 👏🏼
Sprinter Sacre's 2016 Champion Chase victory – a wonderful horse, and a magical day. That roar when he jumps the last… 🏇🏆
— James Stevens (@JamesStevens180) September 24, 2018
Annie Power wins the Champion Hurdle one year after her fall in the Mares’
To quote Rocky Balboa, “It ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward” – Ruby Walsh and Annie Power well and truly hit Rock Bottom in 2015 but were able to rise off the canvas and claim glory the following year.
The hugely talented mare looked all set to cap an extraordinary day for punters in 2015 as she and Walsh strode towards the last obstacle in the Mares’ Hurdle with victory seemingly in their grasp only to come crashing down.
Their resurrection at the following season’s Festival was a joy for all racing fans to behold. Annie Power didn’t make the same mistake again, powering over the final hurdle to beat top-quality rivals in My Tent Or Yours, Nichols Canyon and The New One.
Another trip down memory lane…
This time it’s the Willie Mullins-trained Annie Power romping to victory in the 2016 Champion Hurdle at #TheFestival
— ODDSbible Racing (@ODDSbibleRacing) March 9, 2018
She became only the fourth mare to win the Champion Hurdle and the first since Flakey Dove in 1994.
Kauto Star regains the Gold Cup
The Paul Nicholls-trained superstar is one of the few horses to be talked about in the same breath as the immortal Arkle.
In the 2006/2007 season, he showed the racing world that he was the ultimate racehorse by winning the National Hunt’s Triple Crown.
Not only do you need speed and stamina to win all three races but you need to be a class jumper and have a great temperament. Kauto Star had them all in abundance.
In the 2008 Gold Cup though, his stablemate Denman stole the show after Kauto struggled to get into a rhythm and jumped poorly throughout; but his determination was there for all to see as he ran on gamely to take second by a short head.
The following year, Kauto Star became the first ever horse to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup and it was an absolute masterclass- winning by a massive 13 lengths.
Moscow Flyer regains the Champion Chase
An Irish legend of the National Hunt, Moscow Flyer was one of the most talented horses to ever grace the hallowed Cheltenham turf. Victories in the 2002 Arkle and 2003 Champion Chase had catapulted Jessica Harrington’s inmate to super-stardom.
However the wheels would come off in 2004 renewal of the Champion Chase as Moscow Flyer unseated his partner Barry Geraghty; Azertyuiop going on to claim the prize.
The following year would see the two foes once again go head to head, along with the talented six-year-old Well Chief for company.
He, of course, defeated his English rivals and joined the ranks of Irish Jump racing legends such as Arkle, Dawn Run and Istabraq.
He won the Champion Chase of 2003 and 2005 in a glittering career before dying last year – we look back on the terrific Moscow Flyer pic.twitter.com/47IttKEZCF
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) March 15, 2017