Even the best racehorse trainers can find it difficult to keep the equine athletes in their kind sound. The course of any sport seldom runs smoothly, but horse racing is blessed with plenty of recent examples where the animals returned to competition after injury with success.
If you follow horse racing, then you’ll remember these famous names who bounced back after suffering spells on the sidelines.
We’re talking about the impossible dream here. Bringing 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Sprinter Sacre back after multiple setbacks to win the Cheltenham Festival’s two-mile Ladies’ Day feature again was just remarkable training by Nicky Henderson.
An irregular heartbeat and internal bleeding put his racing career in real jeopardy after two years unbeaten over fences between 2011 and 2013. Henderson, the team at his Seven Barrows stable and a raft of vets nursed Sprinter Sacre back as he regained the Champion Chase crown in 2016 to a rapturous ovation at Prestbury Park.
It was a miracle that shows a combination of tenacious persistence and tender handling of horses really can pay off. His comeback story truly marks Sprinter Sacre out as one of the modern greats of jumps racing.
Irish racehorse trainer Willie Mullins has become something of a specialist with bringing horses back after injury. We could just as easily mention other great Rich and Susannah Ricci owned thoroughbreds like Faugheen and Chacun Pour Soi, but Douvan really was a dominant force until finishing lame in the 2017 Cheltenham Champion Chase.
He had won at the previous two Festivals and was unbeaten over fences going into the big two-mile contest. Douvan had just two races in the next two-and-a-half years as injury kept him off the track, but bolted up on his return after 569 days off in the Clonmel Oil Chase.
Now he’s a little older and may want races of around two-and-a-half miles like that, Douvan is 9/1 in the latest horse racing betting with 888 for the Ryanair Chase. A third Cheltenham Festival triumph might still happen after all.
Winning the Irish, Cheltenham and Punchestown Gold Cups in the space of 10 weeks in 2017 catapulted Sizing John to superstardom. It turns out that earlier in his career, he was simply running over the wrong trip and often finished behind the speedier Douvan in events over two miles.
Sizing John simply wanted further and the rapid progress he made was testament to the superb skill of Irish Flat and National Hunt handler Jessica Harrington. He has only been seen on a racecourse twice since his memorable spring successes, winning the Grade 1 John Durkan before finishing distressed in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase.
Harrington is bringing Sizing John back to the track after two years away for a hurdle race at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve. This particular card of jumps action which rounds off 2019 in Ireland now has real star quality on show and a legion of fans will be rooting for him.