03/16/2016 3:12PM

Sprinter Sacre returns to top form for Queen Mother Champion Chase


CHELTENHAM, England - Sprinter Sacre completed one of the most remarkable comebacks for a top-class horse in recent memory when the 10-year-old gelding won the $500,500 Queen Mother Champion Chase for the second time on Wednesday.

Sprinter Sacre won the race in 2013 at what was believed to be the height of his career. He missed the 2014 running because of an erratic heart beat and was pulled up last year when considered past his prime.

Wednesday, Sprinter Sacre turned back the clock, delivering one of his finest performances in his third consecutive win of the season.

Ridden by Nico de Boinville, Sprinter Sacre (5-1) had a perfect trip in the two-mile race over 13 fences. De Boinville kept Sprinter Sacre in third behind leader Special Tiara and 4-6 favorite Un De Sceaux for the first 1 1/2 miles. When the field ran downhill toward the finish, with less than a half-mile to go, Sprinter Sacre rallied between rivals to take the lead with three fences remaining.

Turning toward the uphill stretch, Sprinter Sacre began to pull away from Un De Sceaux and won by 3 1/2 lengths.

The win set off a raucous celebration from the massive crowd and left winning trainer Nicky Henderson in tears. Henderson was optimistic before Wednesday’s race that Sprinter Sacre had returned to his best form, with wins in November and December, including one at Cheltenham.

“This is completely different than the last two years,” Henderson said. “He’s been so feisty. He came back in (last summer) looking really good.

“I’ve looked at him every night for the last three weeks and I knew something was still there.”

Un De Sceaux finished a nose in front of 16-1 Special Tiara for second. The Queen Mother Champion Chase was the first time Un De Sceaux was beaten in a race he finished. Un De Sceaux won 14 of his first 16 starts, and fell in the previous two races he lost.

Sprinter Sacre, a French-bred by Network, has won 17 of 23 starts, including 13 of 17 steeplechases. Owned by Caroline Mould, Sprinter Sacre has won five races at Cheltenham, including three at the March National Hunt Festival. In March 2012, Sprinter Sacre won the Grade 1 Arkle Chase at two miles.